Patient safety--worker safety: building a culture of safety to improve healthcare worker and patient well-being

Healthc Q. 2005;8 Spec No:32-8. doi: 10.12927/hcq..17659.


Patient safety within the Canadian healthcare system is currently a high national priority, which merits a comprehensive understanding of the underlying causes of adverse events. Not least among these is worker health and safety, which is linked to patient outcomes. Healthcare workers have a high risk of workplace injuries and more mental health problems than most other occupational groups. Many healthcare professionals feel fatigued, stressed, in pain, or at risk of illness or injury-factors they feel impede their ability to provide consistent quality care. With this background, the Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare (OHSAH) in British Columbia, jointly governed by healthcare unions and healthcare employers, launched several major initiatives to improve the healthcare workplace. These included the promotion of safe patient handling, adaptive clothing, scheduled toileting, stroke management training, measures to improve management of aggressive behaviour and, of course, infection control-all intended to improve the safety of workers, but also to improve patient safety and quality of care. Other projects also explicitly promoting physical and mental health at work, as well as patient safety are also underway. Results of the projects are at various stages of completion, but ample evidence has already been obtained to indicate that looking after the well-being of healthcare workers results in safer and better quality patient care. While more research is needed, our work to date suggests that a comprehensive systems approach to promoting a climate of safety, which includes taking into account workplace organizational factors and physical and psychological hazards for workers, is the best way to improve the healthcare workplace and thereby patient safety.

MeSH terms

  • British Columbia
  • Hospital Administration
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • National Health Programs
  • Occupational Health*
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Safety Management*