Common Risks in Healthcare: An In-Depth Guide to Effective Risk Mitigation

Common Risks in Healthcare: An In-Depth Guide to Effective Risk Mitigation

I. Identifying Healthcare Risks and Their Consequences

Strategies for Risk Management Success: Effective Risk Mitigation in Action.

1.1 Common Risks in Healthcare Facilities

When it comes to the healthcare industry it is somehow different from other organizations where the risk presence is different and complex. Every organization has the presence of risks and these can be classified as:

  • Fire
  • Electrical Hazards
  • Working at Height
  • Excessive Noise Level
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Insufficient Welfare Facilities
  • Manual Handling
  • Substance Abuse 
  • Work-Related Stress and many more. 

Healthcare facilities must address these risks effectively to protect their internal occupants from dangerous exposures and incident occurrences. In addition, the presence of these risks' can negatively impact healthcare organizations. 

Paying proper attention and care to these risks can be an effective way to safeguard the organization and its people. 

1.2 The Importance of Healthcare Risk Mitigation

The healthcare industry is proliferating and it consists of different workplace risk exposures. The occupants should be protected from getting involved in these kinds of risk exposures. 

It is vital to implement adequate risk mitigation measures to maintain safety for the healthcare staff, patients, visitors, and other people. Failing to mitigate risks can cause problems such as reputational loss, accident downtime, legal compensation, and financial losses. 

Generally, people like to visit safe places that are free from risks where the necessity of mitigating healthcare risks is indispensable. Thus, the healthcare industry should understand the importance of mitigating risks and providing a safe place to work, visit, and get treatment.

2. Detailed Analysis of Common Healthcare Risks

Detailed Analysis of Common Healthcare Risks

2.1 Flammable Medical Gases and Fire Risks

Medical gases are used in the healthcare industry for various purposes such as providing ventilation, performing operations, etc. There are many types of medical gases used in healthcare facilities like oxygen, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and vacuum. 

These medical gases are highly flammable and need special attention to avoid fire incidents. Maintaining the medical gas system with essential care is crucial because the risk is catastrophic. 

If these medical gases are not maintained properly, the entire hospital will be in danger which cause fire and explosion that can lead to severe consequences to the occupants like fire burns, injuries, asphyxiation, or even death. 

2.2 Excessive Noise Levels and Their Impact

The noise level should be bearable by the people inside the healthcare facility where the presence of excessive noise level can be a serious risk in healthcare buildings. 

The main contributor to excessive noise levels is generators which emit more than 85dBA sound that cannot be tolerable by human beings. Also, it can cause several problems for the people who mainly handle generator maintenance. 

They visit more frequently to the generator room to check the functionality. Also, the people in vicinity areas get impacted by this sound emission and it causes many health-related problems.

Some such problems are known as temporary hearing loss, Tinnitus, discomfort, headaches, and worst-case scenarios that can cause noise-induced deafness (NFD) in prolonged exposure.

2.3 Hazardous Medical Waste Generation

Healthcare industries generate high levels of hazardous medical waste such as expired pharmaceuticals, sharps, infectious biological waste, and pathogens that are a serious risk to the healthcare firm and can cause severe problems to the waste handlers and people who have a chance to get exposed. 

Until the hazardous wastes are collected by the authorized waste collection agents or companies, they are stored and handled by the internal janitorial staff where they have a higher chance of risk exposure. 

The exposure can be through skin absorption, inhalation, and biological and accidental ingestion of expired drugs. It can cause severe acute and chronic health impacts like pain elevation, acute toxicity, nausea, liver damage, allergies, and immunity damage.

2.4 Electrical Risks in Healthcare

In healthcare facilities, some most common electrical faults include, portable electrical equipment defects, wet floors, misuse of electrical equipment, and unavailability of logout and tag out (LOTO) procedures that can lead to electrical risks like exposure to electric shocks or electrocution. 

Touching faulty portable electrical equipment, misusing equipment like inserting wires into the sockets directly without a plug, and working on wet surfaces are some practices that can lead people to be exposed to electrical risks. 

Most common consequences are possible through electrical risk exposure such as painful sensation, muscle contraction, electric shock, injuries by falling, direct or indirect electrical burns, fainting, and deaths in serious conditions.

2.5 Working at Height in Healthcare Facilities

Many occasions require healthcare staff and other external people such as contractors to work at height in a healthcare building. Whether it is a maintenance job or a cleaning job, working at height cannot be avoided and improper care or awareness can lead to serious risk occurrences. 

Cleaning staff must clean some premises that can only be accessible by using a step ladder. Also, maintenance staff perform maintenance duties on higher surfaces where necessary precaution is needed to avoid falling from top surfaces. 

There may be some open areas without protected edges and uneven surfaces that are dangerous and tend to cause a risk of falling. Consequences of falling can be injuries, fractures, bruises, paralysis, and fatalities.

2.6 Inadequate Welfare Facilities in Healthcare

In healthcare facilities, providing necessary welfare is the primary responsibility of the employer where insufficient welfare provision can lead to multiple problems. Welfare facilities such as washrooms, dining areas, adequate workspace, drinking water, restrooms, uniform changing facilities, washing, and other facilities are mandatory to be provided at the premises, 

Failing to provide these facilities will result in risks related to health and well-being. Consequences of inadequate welfare provision are work-related stress, productivity losses, mental health effects, fatigue, anxiety, and other ergonomic issues.

2.7 Managing Hazardous Substances in Healthcare Facilities

There can be many hazardous substances present in a healthcare facility such as housekeeping chemicals, mercury, toxic drugs, pesticides, and laboratory substances. 

These hazardous substances are required to be handled with sufficient care when handling, storing, and used for various purposes. Proper labeling is also vital for easy identification and failing to follow these rules can lead to the risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals. 

Hazardous substances can cause acute and chronic health issues in humans when they penetrate the human body through inhalation, skin absorption, and accidental consumption. Also, the consequences are skin irritation, burns, nausea, dermatitis, and organ damage.

2.8 Risks Associated with Healthcare Equipment

Mechanical and non-mechanical machinery hazards are important to consider where these machinery-related risks are serious and cause severe damage. In healthcare facilities, there are several work-related equipment available, and improper guarding and maintenance can lead to potential risk. 

For example, improper maintenance of boilers can lead to non-mechanical machinery hazards such as carbon monoxide emission, fire, and explosion. This carbon monoxide emission can cause asphyxiation, dizziness, and organ damage. 

Fire or explosion risk is possible to occur when the boiler equipment is operated in imbalanced pressure or low water conditions. If the boiler equipment explodes, it can be a catastrophic risk where the entire healthcare building and its occupants will be affected. 

3. Strategies for Effective Risk Mitigation in Healthcare

Enhancing Healthcare Safety: Strategies for Effective Risk Mitigation in the Medical Field.

3.1 Control Measures for Flammable Medical Gases

To mitigate fire risk from flammable medical gases a healthcare facility must implement the necessary control measures as below:

  • Conduct training for the engineering and maintenance staff to handle, transport, and store the gas cylinders carefully.
  • Print and affix appropriate warning signs (Highly flammable gases, do not smoke, no hot work) in respective gas storage areas to avoid any kind of ignition activities near the cylinders like smoking, and welding works.
  • Implement a checklist for operational checks of safety valves and other components to prevent pressurized vessel blasting.
  • Separately store the empty cylinders from the full-cylinder gas bank store. 
  • Proper maintenance of gas cylinders and regular check of pressure level (for example; 04 bar pressure is maintained for O2 cylinders).
  • Arrange fire protection systems like sprinklers, fire hydrants, hose reels, and different types of portable fire extinguishers like CO2, water, foam, and ABC dry powder in every area to suppress fire in case of a fire occurrence.
  • Train and educate the staff, in emergency fire circumstances, safe evacuation, fire type, appropriate extinguisher to be used, and dos and don’ts (ex; Avoid using elevators when there is a fire in the building).

3.2 Reducing Excessive Noise Levels

The following control measures are applicable to mitigate the risk of excessive noise levels in a healthcare facility:

  • Install Noise suppressors or silencers to reduce the noise level.
  • Procure a noise meter to measure the sound level and a complete noise level assessment should be done by a competent person.
  • An audiometry test should be done on the staff by a competent person to find out if any previous or new hearing damage occurred and to rectify the issue.
  • Necessary training and information should be provided regarding generator maintenance and safety concerns. 
  • Proper and timely maintenance of the generator equipment. The daily checklist includes checking of diesel level, Oil level, meters, gauges, batteries, cleanliness, equipment grounding, and vibration.
  • Walls, doors, and other components of the generator machine room should be with sound-insulated materials or soundproofed.
  • Provide and mandate the usage of hearing protection when entering the generator room and make sure maintenance staff wear it regularly.
  • Introduce daily shifts or work rotations to the maintenance staff (electrical) to avoid recurring exposure and monitor their activities.

3.3 Mitigating Hazardous Medical Waste

Strategies that healthcare facilities can follow to mitigate the amount of hazardous medical waste generation are as follows;

  • Installation of an incinerator to destroy medical waste.
  • Proper waste management processes should be introduced and followed regularly from waste generation to effective disposal.
  • Implement work rotation and shifts for housekeeping staff to reduce medical waste exposure time.
  • Arrange proper waste segregation methods to segregate medical wastes from other general hospital wastes (Separate medical waste storage area and color-coded bins with proper labels).
  • Regular monitoring of the staff, whether they maintain personal hygiene before, during, and after handling medical waste.
  • Introduce periodical health surveillance to the waste handlers to find health issues and implement rectification.
  • Implement proper computerized stock management for pharmaceuticals and timely disposal of expired pharmaceutical items.
  • Use necessary PPE such as gloves, aprons, masks, and safety shoes when handling medical waste.

3.4 Managing Electrical Risks

Mitigating electrical risks is crucial in healthcare facilities to avoid unnecessary consequences in the building and the following strategies are effective in controlling electrical risk:

  • Implement proper lockout and tag-out procedures on the isolator to secure the system before doing maintenance on the dead system.
  • Timely maintenance of electrical components such as panel boards, main switch boxes, transformers, ATS panels, etc.
  • Installation of protective devices such as electrical circuit breakers, RCD, fuses, grounding, stabilizers to control voltage fluctuations, etc.
  • Repair the defects in portable electrical equipment and protect the conductors adequately with double insulation.
  • Always follow a safe system of work methods like avoiding inserting wires into the socket without a plug, avoiding using electrical equipment with wet hands, etc.
  • Do regular mopping or wet/dry vacuuming to dry the wet floor.
  • Clean and remove dust inside the electrical panel boards using a blower every month to prevent malfunctioning.
  • Affix warning signs in critical areas with potential electrical hazard descriptions.
  • Authorized access to the electrical panel room, UPS, and generator room.
  • Provide necessary PPEs like boots, helmets, safety gloves, etc.

3.5 Ensuring Safety While Working at Height

To control risks related to working at height, the following strategies can be implemented:

  • Check and maintain the ladders often.
  • Procure a pole cleaning kit to clean the windows, top surfaces, and components by standing on the floor instead of using a step ladder.
  • Permanently protect the open edges using guardrails.
  • Proper housekeeping to prevent slippery floors and obstructions.
  • Using relevant sign boards when performing maintenance and cleaning works at height.
  • Training and instructions should be given with practical illustrations to the workers regarding unsafe behaviors of working at height and control measures.
  • Provide safe working practices to use ladders safely. Always check the stability of the ladders before usage and follow proper safety precautions.
  • Random supervision is necessary to find out unsafe behaviors of staff when working at height.
  • Provide necessary PPEs such as safety helmets, shoes, gloves, and masks to work at height.

3.6 Improving Welfare Facilities

By following the below strategies, a healthcare organization can improve welfare facilities provision and able to mitigate risks related to inadequate welfare provision:

  • Arrange a breakout room facility for the staff to take a rest. Facilitate with necessary facilities, hazard-free, and properly ventilated workplace.
  • Proper space arrangement, decluttering, and arranging stationery properly. 
  • Improve sanitary facilities to match the occupant’s amount.
  • Proper housekeeping and following a washroom checklist to clean and prevent unnecessary odors and unpleasant accesses.
  • Ensure proper washing, dining, and other necessary facilities provisions as per the requirements to reduce crowding and queuing to use facilities.

3.7 Handling Hazardous Substances

It is important to mitigate the risk of hazardous substances where chemical substances are more dangerous and the following strategies are used to effectively control the risk presented:

  • Authorized access to the housekeeping store.
  • Conduct toolbox talks and training to instruct housekeeping staff on safe working practices.
  • Use proper storage containers to store chemicals and label them correctly.
  • Always follow proper hygienic practices when using housekeeping chemicals for cleaning.
  • Always tightly close the containers to prevent spillages or accidental release of chemical contents.
  • Proper Storage arrangement and avoid dumping.
  • Monitor the janitors' work whether they follow safe work practices when doing cleaning.
  • Use relevant PPEs to avoid coming into contact with chemical content.

3.8 Mitigating Work Equipment-Related Risks

The mechanical and non-mechanical risk presence of critical work equipment can be effectively controlled by following these strategies:

  • Regular inspection of critical work equipment.
  • Periodic and annual maintenance should be conducted without delays.
  • Proper machine guarding is necessary to avoid accidents.
  • Initiate a planned preventive maintenance program to maintain the equipment in top condition.
  • An electronic access control system (Proximity electronic cards or Fingerprint door locks) should be installed to avoid irrelevant access to the machine or plant room.
  • Issue and mandate of wearing necessary personnel protective equipment like gloves, respirators, and hearing and eye protection regularly to avoid any exposure when working with machinery.

4. Conclusion

Ensuring workplace safety in a healthcare facility is very important to safeguard the occupants and this article has talked about the common risks in a healthcare building and mitigation strategies to effectively control the development of these risks that can cause harm to the people and organization assets. 

Effective risk mitigation can help a healthcare organization to receive multiple benefits such as saving the company's reputation or image, avoiding unnecessary accidents or incidents, avoiding legal compensation payments, reducing accidental costs and investigation time, and many more. 

Therefore, having effective risk mitigation to control or avoid risks is mandatory to lead a successful healthcare business.


Q1: What are the common risks in the healthcare industry?

A1: Common risks in healthcare include fire hazards, electrical risks, excessive noise levels, hazardous substances, working at height, inadequate welfare facilities, and the generation of hazardous medical waste.

Q2: Why is healthcare risk mitigation so important?

A2: Healthcare risk mitigation is crucial to protect the safety and well-being of healthcare staff, patients, visitors, and other individuals. Failing to mitigate risks can lead to reputational loss, accidents, legal complications, and financial losses.

Q3: What are the consequences of excessive noise levels in healthcare facilities?

A3: Excessive noise levels in healthcare buildings can cause temporary hearing loss, discomfort, headaches, and in severe cases, noise-induced deafness. It primarily stems from sources such as generators and can affect both staff and individuals in nearby areas.

Q4: How can healthcare facilities mitigate risks related to working at height?

A4: Healthcare facilities can implement various strategies to mitigate working at height risks. These include ensuring proper ladder maintenance, using pole cleaning kits, permanently protecting open edges with guardrails, and providing safety training, supervision, and necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for working at height.

Q5: What measures can be taken to mitigate the risks associated with hazardous substances in healthcare facilities?

A5: To mitigate risks related to hazardous substances, healthcare facilities should implement authorized access to chemical storage areas, conduct training sessions for safe working practices, use proper storage containers with correct labeling, practice proper hygiene when handling chemicals, and provide relevant PPEs to avoid contact with. 

Q6: What is risk prevention in healthcare?

A6: Risk prevention is also known as risk avoidance where in healthcare facilities, certain risks are effectively prevented through proper elimination techniques of the source of risks.

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