SOMC First Hospital Named To ‘America’s Safest Companies’

For the first time, Occupational Hazards has recognized a healthcare facility as one of America’s Safest Companies.

Southern Ohio Medical Center has earned the honor through the organization’s all-encompassing approach to create a safe and healthy workplace for its 2,300 employees.

“Safety is our first strategic value,” says Penny Cooper, director of Risk Management and Safety Services. “We’re very focused on safety.”

Occupational Hazards is a news organization that informs safety, health and industrial hygiene professionals in the manufacturing, construction, and service sectors about trends, management strategies, regulatory news and new products that help them provide safe and healthy work sites.

Every year, the 222-bed hospital in Portsmouth admits about 13,000 patients, performs 12,000 surgeries and handles almost 80,000 emergency cases. Through it all, SOMC is dedicated to not only taking care of patients’ needs, but ensuring that employees are kept safe and healthy, as well. Safety is listed first among SOMC’s strategic values, including the promise that the facility “will build and sustain an exceptionally safe organization.”

As part of SOMC’s determination to go above and beyond expected safety policies, the organization has implemented a random audit program, an ergonomics team, a safety leadership team, a safety hotline and a healthy partners program. It’s all part of SOMC’s commitment to build a safe environment for the facility’s workers.

SOMC created the Safety Champions program in 2005 to facilitate cultural change within the facility and highlight the importance of workplace safety. Continually trained, safety champions’ responsibilities include serving as liaisons for other employees, raising departmental safety concerns and assisting continual monitoring and readiness. SOMC has about 200 champions in the program.

Since the safety champions program has been in place, SOMC has reduced total recordable injuries by more than 30 percent, has reduced workers’ compensation costs by more than 9 percent, has improved compliance with external governing bodies and has won several safety awards.

As a current member of the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Mentor Program, SOMC is taking steps to gain VPP Star status. Management believes achieving this goal can help SOMC continue to save lives, avoid worker injuries, reduce insurance and litigation and raise worker morale.

SOMC even has partnered with VPP Star status site Turner Construction for the facility’s $110-million expansion. Cooper says SOMC didn’t want to just hire a construction company as an employee; they wanted a company with a proven safety record to act as a partner in this extensive project.

Employees are also rewarded and honored for creating new ideas on safety issues. When a nurse noticed that SOMC’s medication system placed the most-used drugs at the bottom, causing staff to repeatedly bend over, she submitted her concern to the Ideas program. This incentives program rewards employees who submit safety-related ideas or solutions that are approved by the safety leadership team. Thanks to the Ideas program and the nurse’s observation, the problem was solved. Now, the most commonly used drugs are located within easy reach.

“It changed the whole system,” Cooper says.

It also shows how encouraging employee input can affect an organization’s safety culture. By putting safety first, SOMC has become one of the few healthcare facilities to stand out as a safety star.