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A simple moment of distraction can result in a serious injury. Slips, trips and falls are among the leading causes of hospitalizations in Canada, and these accidents are likely to happen at home as well as at our workplace, where we tend to be multi-tasking while walking or using the stairs.
Veronica Deally, Project Coordinator for Volunteer Resources, was having a typical busy day when she fell eight steps on the staircase that connects the first floor to the ground level at Toronto General Hospital (TG), close to the Eaton Elevators.
"Eight steps, I remember it was quite a fall," she recounts. "I got up quickly, embarrassed as most people would feel in a situation like this.
"Normally, I would have walked away as fast as possible, but I decided to take a closer look."
Veronica had been planning and delivering Caring Safely education sessions to her colleagues. She says being involved in the Caring Safely initiative made her more aware of how important it is to identify different types of hazard in the workplace.
On the day she fell, when looking back at the stairs she realized the black grip strips on the steps were worn off, which probably contributed to her fall, so she decided to report a Safety Event through UHN's Intranet.
"That is one of the busiest staircases in the hospital and my thought was that if I can fall, other staff can fall and even a patient can fall," she says. "If this was my mother, she could have fractured her hip."
On the next day, someone from the Occupational Health and Safety Department contacted Veronica to check on her and also to see what could be done about the stairs. Not only were the grip strips replaced, but also extra strips were applied to the steps.
"It made me so happy that I could help even in a small way to make the hospital a safer place," Veronica says. "People don't think about incident reporting as something you have to be doing constantly, but when we look at the numbers it is clear that we need to change our behaviour.
"We learn that the near misses are the ones we have to catch so they don't happen again. I only had bruises, but it could have been a lot worse."
Working together to prevent accidents
The statistics show that a lot can be done to reduce preventable harm. In Canada, it is estimated that more than 13,000 people are hospitalized each year because of a stair fall. In Ontario alone, 4,500 are taken to the hospital for the same reason.
Being careful can go a long way, especially during winter when we tend to get our shoes wet, but it is also important to ensure we have the safest conditions. That is why reporting like Veronica did is crucial.
Falls from stairs and steps
Hospitalizations per year:
4,500 in Ontario
13,200 in Canada
Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information
"No matter how small you think the event was, we urge all employees and volunteers to report because it is the only way we can do something about it and create a safer environment for everyone," says Ade Adenowo-Akpan, Manager for the Safety and Occupational Hygiene Department at TG.
A worker at UHN is harmed every 36 hours. The hospital's ultimate goal is to reduce this incidence to zero and all staff can contribute on a daily basis.
Veronica highlights that reporting is easy, fast and rewarding.
"I understand people are busy, but reporting really takes three minutes, tops," she says. "The link to report a Safety Event is right on the intranet's homepage, so it's super easy.
"And it's important to do it straight away when it's still fresh in your mind, because if you go to a meeting and come back you might forget details, in my case for example how many steps I fell."
UHN's Caring Safely transformation is focused on eliminating preventable harm to staff and patients. To learn more about the Caring Safely, staff can
visit the intranet link and visitors can check the external page
[Editor's Note: Link is no longer available].