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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Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems: what are they?

The Institute for Work and Health (IWH) defines OHSMS as “the integrated set of organizational elements involved in a continuous cycle of planning, implementation, evaluation and continual improvement, directed toward the abatement of occupational hazards in the workplace”.  OHSMSs are distinguishable from traditional occupation health and safety (OHS) programs by being more proactive, better integrated internally and incorporating elements of evaluation and continuous improvement. Many organizations put programs in place, but do not develop an overall OHSMSM. When an organization is focused on a program, lagging indicators are often used to measure the outputs of the program.

Lagging indicator is defined as a measure taken after events with a focus on outcomes and occurrences based on retrospective data. Some examples include accident and incident rates, disease statistics, frequency of accident investigations and costs associated with compensation systems. In contrast, leading indicators are workplace characteristics that precede occupational health and safety outcomes and, if changed, are expected to change these outcomes (e.g. rate of absenteeism, workplace injuries, etc.). A leading indicator is often associated with proactive activities and is an important tool to help organizations track, measure and adjust their OHS-related activities to effectively direct the health and safety performance and avoid incidents or harm.  By identifying and using leading indicators, performance outcomes under the current conditions of an organizational system may be anticipated and action taken.

Knowledge translation activities

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. By implementing specific elements to test leading indicators, this study 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.Using an integrated knowledge translation approach, all team members who are recognized experts in occupational health and safety have been and will be involved in every step of this study from designing the study to the final symposium and report.

We will actively plan and undertake a comprehensive end-of-grant knowledge translation strategy including the following activities:

  1. This study website to provide details, newsletters, reports, presentations, and final results. All information will also be posted on websites of PSHSA, Health and Safety Professionals Inc. and researchers’ personal pages
  2. Plain-language newsletters will be provided bi-monthly during the study and a series of 2-page plain-language summaries will be developed at the end of the study for distribution at the participating sites
  3. A technical report will be created outlining the scope, and all findings and recommendations. The research findings will also be reported in a non-technical paper discussing the relevance and application of the findings for health professionals, senior administrators and policy-makers along with the recommendations
  4. Context specific, open-access journals will be targeted for three publications
  5. Presentations at national, international, and local conferences will be organized to reach a wide audience of OHS practitioners
  6. Presentations will be made to front-line healthcare professionals at participating sites, as well as the collaborator’s organizations

In addition, employees and physicians at the participating sites will be invited to the one-day symposium.

Safeguards for privacy and confidentiality

All sites and participants will be de-identified, and all results reported as group data. All data will be stored in encrypted computers and only the consultants, research assistants, research coordinator and principal investigator will have access to the data. This study has been approved by the Queen’s University and Affiliated Teaching Hospital Research Ethics Board, as well as the participating sites’ respective research ethics boards.