Take Advantage of Our Grant Program To Improve Employee Safety In Healthcare

The Workplace Safety Funds grant program gives Workers' Compensation Fund members a way to improve employee safety in healthcare through approved initiatives.

At LHA Trust Funds, we understand that employee safety in healthcare works hand-in-hand with patient safety.

That’s why we offer the Workplace Safety Funds grant program to our members each year — to give healthcare facilities a way to pursue employee safety improvement projects that make long-term differences for both workers and patients.

For Chief Nursing Officer at Hood Memorial Hospital Todd Acosta, the Workplace Safety Funds grant means embracing opportunity.

“It’s about being as safe as possible for both patients and employees,” he says. “The program itself and the idea of it makes you say ‘Okay, we’ve got an opportunity here. How can we improve?’”

What Is the Workplace Safety Funds Program?

The annual Workplace Safety Funds grant program is designed to award LHA Trust Funds members dedicated to employee safety. Any member of the LHA Workers’ Compensation Fund who has a premium of $10,000 or more is eligible to receive the grant.

Unlike prior workplace safety grants, this year’s Workplace Safety Funds grant program is divided into three separate initiatives: Safe Patient Handling & Mobility (SPHM), Workplace Violence Prevention, or Safe Material Lifting.

The reason? LHA Trust Funds has identified these three areas as encompassing the most frequent and severe employee claims and injuries both in the Workers’ Compensation Fund and trending nationwide.

Safe Patient Handling & Mobility (SPHM)

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) caused by patient lifting, transferring, and repositioning represent many of the most common and severe workplace injuries sustained by healthcare workers each year.

Such injuries can be devastating to your patient care workforce. Hospitals nationwide recorded nearly three times (7.6) the work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees in 2020 as compared with 2.7 per 100 full-time employees for all U.S. industries combined, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). More than 50% of injuries and illnesses reported in 2020 among nursing assistants were musculoskeletal disorders alone.

When it comes to workers’ compensation claims, healthcare facilities pay both direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include insurance premiums that increase as the experience modifier increases because of claims. But indirect costs such as staffing shortages, training replacement employees, and lost productivity are borne by the facility. According to OSHA’s Safety Pays Program Estimator, a single back strain could have an average price tag of $67,248 between direct and indirect costs.

The goal of the SPHM grant track is to help healthcare facilities launch or grow initiatives to eliminate the manual transfer of patients and increase patient mobility while reducing employee safety risks.

“Injuries related to manual handling of patients can be very severe and potentially career-ending injuries for your direct patient care staff,” says Stacie Jenkins, Vice-President of Patient Safety and Risk at LHA Trust Funds. “Using Workplace Safety Funds to implement a Safe Patient Handling and Mobility program can boost employee morale, reduce injuries, and reduce the number of staff it takes to move patients.”

Workplace Violence Prevention

Preventing workplace violence in healthcare is a high priority when it comes to worker safety topics nationwide.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare practitioners and technical occupations made up about 23% of cases of nonfatal workplace intentional injuries — by another person — that required at least a day away from work in 2020.

Healthcare workers often don’t know what to expect from their work environments each day. Healthcare facilities faced with threats or acts of verbal abuse, physical violence, and disruptive behavior may struggle to provide the training, education, and morale necessary for staff to deliver exceptional patient care.

The Workplace Violence Prevention grant track assists facilities to create a safer work environment for employees both by raising awareness of potential threats and developing a formal workplace violence prevention program.

“Our expert Risk Consultants conduct focused Violence and Threat Risk Assessments that are designed to help organizations identify vulnerabilities in their organization,” Jenkins says. “Then they offer strategies to help mitigate identified risks. The Workplace Safety Funds can be used to implement those strategies.”

Safe Material Lifting

While the main source of manual lifting and transferring injuries to employees in healthcare facilities are the patients themselves, many other departments within your organization need materials transferred and delivered to keep operations moving smoothly.

The BLS reports that more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one out of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. While safe material lifting isn’t considered a glamorous workplace safety and health issue, it is vitally important when it comes to efficient, cost-effective operations within your healthcare facility.

That’s why Safe Material Lifting is the third Workplace Safety Funds grant track — to help healthcare leaders develop programs to address the manual lifting of materials within their organizations and promote safe lifting among employees.

“This track is especially geared toward those departments handling heavy materials such as trash, boxes, laundry bags, etc.,” Jenkins says. “A job safety analysis in these areas is beneficial to identify tasks that are compromising the safety of the employees and designing training and risk reduction strategies to make the work safer.”

The Workplace Safety Funds Experience

Hood Memorial’s experience started with the Safe Patient Handling & Mobility grant track’s risk assessment in 2021. Then at the height of COVID-19 restrictions, Acosta and LHA Trust Funds’ assessment of facility and patient needs indicated that new sit-to-stand equipment could make a difference in injuries and outcomes.

Since investing in the equipment, Acosta says the chances of injury have decreased for both patients and employees. The device has also allowed employees to reduce the amount of manpower necessary to move or transfer patients while increasing safety standards.

“It's safer for staff and decreases injuries for staff potentially,” Acosta says. “It takes less time and less manpower to move people. And it increases confidence with the staff.”

This year, Hood Memorial is pursuing the Workplace Safety Funds workplace violence prevention track. The facility recently underwent a comprehensive security and threat assessment and plans to use grant funds to directly address identified issues.

Why Should My Organization Apply?

Safety and health hazards exist within all healthcare organizations. Robust employee safety initiatives are proven to help mitigate the risk of worker injury, potentially reduce claims, and improve staff satisfaction and morale.

“The Workplace Safety Funds is a program designed to give back to our members by helping them offset some of the economic burden of improvement projects,” Jenkins says.

“These days, it isn’t easy to find and hire good people to work in your organization. When you find the right people for the job, why not create a work environment that shows you care about their safety? Workplace Safety Funds offers organizations the opportunity to set employees up for success one program at a time.”

The Workplace Safety Funds program flexibility is a great benefit for any healthcare organization that applies, Acosta says.

“Everybody has faults, and this is an opportunity to assess if you have a real problem,” he says. “Taking advantage of a program like this allows you the flexibility to choose what you feel is appropriate. I had the flexibility after the assessment to go after what we needed. And that was a big plus for us.”

Ready to apply for the Workplace Safety Funds? Access our Participation Form to start the process.

Want more details about Workplace Safety Funds first? Read about the grant program tracks, goals, and more.