A Study of Leading Indicators for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems in Healthcare

A Study of Leading Indicators for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems in Healthcare

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Welcome to the 'Study of Leading Indicators for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems in Healthcare' website

This project, funded by the Ministry of Labour, will examine a new approach to strengthening the occupational health and safety system in healthcare settings.

Ontario’s healthcare sector employs more than 800,000 employees with hospitals being the largest employer. Every day, healthcare workers encounter physical risks from repetitive lifting and moving, chemical risks, risks of infection and threats of violence. For the past five years the healthcare sector has ranked second highest for lost-time injury rates (injuries that result in lost time from work) among the 16 Ontario sectors, with female healthcare workers currently ranked the highest among all occupations for lost-time claims (WSIB, 2014). In addition, approximately $2.5B is spent yearly on occupational injuries (WSIB, 2012). Despite an increased focus on improving Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety System, the injury statistics are not improving significantly. One of the potential keys to changing this trend is the development of a culture of healthy and safe workplaces, including the effective utilization of leading indicators within Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS). Leading indicators are workplace characteristics that precede occupational health and safety outcomes and, if changed, are expected to change these outcomes. Using leading indicators to measure health and safety has been common practice in high-risk industries; however, this shift has not occurred in healthcare. Therefore, the aim of this study is to conduct a longitudinal study implementing leading indicators and evaluating the effectiveness of this intervention on improving selected health and safety workplace indicators.

Research Objectives

  1. To assess current OHSMS in participating sites using the six key leading indicators developed (senior management commitment, continuous improvement, communication, competence, employee involvement in occupational health and safety, and occupational health management);
  2. To identify potential facilitators and barriers to changing current OHSMS;
  3. To identify the leading indicators that could be added or changed in each site; and,
  4. To pilot test and evaluate the effectiveness of a tailored intervention using the six leading indicators on improving selected health and safety workplace indicators.

A quasi-experimental longitudinal research design will be used within two Ontario acute care hospitals. The first phase of the study will focus on assessing current OHSMSs in participating hospitals using the key leading indicators (objective 1), determining potential facilitators and barriers to changing current OHSMSs (objective 2), and identifying the leading indicators that could be added or changed to the existing OHSMS in place (objective 3). Phase I will conclude with the development of an intervention designed to support optimizing current OHSMSs in participating hospitals based on identified gaps. Phase II will pilot test and evaluate the tailored intervention (objective 4). Phase III will focus on the dissemination of study results, which includes a one-day symposium with team members and interested stakeholders.

In partnership with the Public Services Health and Safety Association, this study will generate information on priority issues identified by the Ministry of Labour with a particular emphasis on enhancing the delivery of effective OHSMSs by utilizing leading indicators and subsequently promoting a health and safety culture in healthcare workplaces. The high costs of occupational injuries along with the growing public demand for quality healthcare are all strong motivators for organizations to create a culture of safety. By implementing specific elements to test leading indicators, this project will examine a new approach to strengthening the occupational health and safety system. Results will guide healthcare organizations in setting priorities for their OHSMSs and thereby improve health and safety outcomes.

Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Labour and co-sponsored by Public Services Health & Safety Association, Health & Safety Professionals Inc., and The Ottawa Hospital.

  1. Workplace Safety and Insuranced Board. (2014). By the numbers: 2014 WSIB Statistical Report. Retrieved from: http://www.wsibstatistics.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/wsib_btn_sched1.pdf
  2. WSIB Enterprise Information Warehouses. Snapshot date: November 30, 2012.

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