Archive May 2014 XV, No. 5

Watch Your Step

Protect your surgeons and staff from slips, trips and falls in the OR.

Dan O

Dan O'Connor, Editor-in-Chief


tame the equipment clutter Tame the equipment clutter, the fluid runoff, the tangle of cords and other hazards that make most operating rooms such dangerous places to work.

The C-arm's electrical cord was bridge-cable thick, yet it was easy to miss in the dark and crowded operating room. Too bulky to lie flat, it curled and kinked, rising just high enough to catch the foot of Susan Schuldt, RN, MS, CNOR, as she dashed toward the door to get a sterile drape from the supply room down the hall. Ms. Schuldt tripped over the cord and fell hard to the black OR floor on her outstretched hands. She fractured both radial heads, suffered a hairline wrist fracture and opened a nasty gash on her forehead. "Had I hit my head a little differently," she says, "I would have fractured my jaw."

She missed only 3 days of work, but doctors wouldn't let her drive for 6 weeks; the hospital paid for a taxi service to take her to and from work, 30 miles each way. When she returned to duty at Onslow Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, N.C., she couldn't work in the OR because she had a 1-pound weight restriction. They gave her a desk job, running the OR schedule. "I could pick up the phone, but that's about it," says Ms. Schuldt, who's now the OR clinical coordinator at Onslow.

This nasty spill happened to Ms. Schuldt 9 years ago. Her injuries have healed and Onslow's ORs have since been renovated and enlarged, but could such an accident happen at your facility?

How big of a problem are slips, trips and falls in ORs? Perhaps much bigger than you think.

Slips, trips and falls as a whole are the second most common cause of lost-workday injuries in hospitals, and were more likely to result in fractures and multiple injuries than were other types of workers' compensation claims, according to a 2011 OSHA study, "Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention for Healthcare Workers". Of the 379 facility managers we recently surveyed, 60% say a staff member or a surgeon has sustained an injury from slipping or falling in their ORs.

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