‘SafeStart’ your way to improving safety in home health care


2010 Award Finalist

The Problem

Client and staff safety is and must be a priority in all health care sectors. This is especially true in home care where there are fewer controls on the work environment. A recent study found a 13.2 percent adverse event rate in home care, compared to an estimated 7.5 percent in Canadian hospitals. VHA Home HealthCare began looking seriously at the issue after client survey ratings on the safety of care VHA provided indicated room for improvement. In addition, VHA was being hit hard by staff injuries resulting in WSIB claims. Clearly there was a need to improve safety performance at VHA.

The Innovation

The SafeStart program from Electrolab Systems is a proven and innovative approach to behavioural safety used primarily in the manufacturing industry. Despite the fact that the program had only limited application in the health care sector, and only in hospital settings, its key concepts seemed to fit as well for home health care as they do for industry and hospital settings. VHA decided to trial the program. Supervisors and Educators attended a train- the-trainer sessions offered by Electrolab Systems and subsequently pre-tested the training with members of the Patient Safety Committee. Adaptations for home care were made and the 10-hour training program was then piloted with two teams of approximately 50 personal support workers each.

The Results

Staff who participated in the SafeStart training program stated the learning was invaluable. At the completion of the five two-hour training segments all staff could consistently identify the four factors that influence client and staff safety: rushing, fatigue, complacency, and frustration. They also demonstrated understanding of the four critical errors that could result: eyes not on task, mind not on task, being in the line of fire and losing balance traction and grip.

Next Steps

The SafeStart program will continue to be rolled out to the front line teams at VHA. Evaluation of the program’s effectiveness will be ongoing, and over time VHA expects to see fewer safety incidents among staff and clients receiving their services.

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