Occupational Health Hazards for Nurses and How to Prevent Them

Hospitals and healthcare settings can be hazardous environments to work in. Nurses face multiple occupational health hazards every day – some obvious, others not so obvious.

In this post we’ll list some common occupational health hazards for nurses, and how to prevent them.

Slip, Trip and Fall Hazards in Hospitals

Slips, trips and falls are an occupational health hazard in most, if not all, working environments. And hospitals and healthcare settings are no exception. The difference is that slips, trips and falls in the healthcare sector can be particularly dangerous.

If nurses slip or trip while carrying delicate medical equipment, sharp instruments, hazardous samples or substances, or even trays of food, then they could cause some serious harm to themselves and others.

There may also be more slipping and tripping hazards in healthcare settings than in other workplaces, including spilled fluids, dropped or discarded gowns, clothing or bedding, and devices and equipment left out of place.

The Solution

Thorough and comprehensive cleaning procedures can ensure that tripping and slipping hazards are addressed before they cause any problems. Fluid management is an important area of focus. Unless spills are cleaned as soon as possible, surfaces can remain slippery for hours.

We stock a range of spill kits to help hospitals address chemical and cytotoxic spills promptly, thoroughly, and effectively.

We also stock absorbent floor mats for better fluid management during procedures. Capable of absorbing up to 8.5 litres of water and 3.5 litres of saline, they gel liquids and become dry to the touch. So they immediately remove slipping hazards in surgical environments. And following the procedure, you can simply dispose of them, allowing for faster cleaning and swifter turnaround times.

Infection & Contamination Hazards for Nurses

Nurses work very closely with both staff and patients, and they regularly provide support during treatments and procedures. So there’s a constant risk of infection from coughs, sneezes, and other bodily fluids. And if nurses become contaminated, there’s the risk they’ll pass on these infections to other, more vulnerable patients.

But these aren’t the only infection and contamination risks in healthcare settings. Nurses must also consider bacteria, viruses and other organisms lingering on clothing and surfaces; VOCs and other chemicals; particulate matter from outside sources; and radiation from certain devices and procedures.

The Solution

Standard infection control precautions can help nurses and other healthcare workers prevent and control infection risks at all levels. Precautions include thorough cleaning protocols and procedures; standards for PPE; good hand hygiene; cough and sneeze etiquette, and more.

Air quality consultations can also help nurses identify the sort of infection and contamination risks they might face, and the measures they can take to overcome them.

Finally, hospital-grade air purifiers can remove many of the common contaminants and harmful substances found in hospital air, including viruses, bacteria, microplastics, VOCs, particulate matter, and more. Our range of air purifiers for the healthcare sector can catch up to 99.97% of particles down to 0.1 microns.

Heavy Lifting in Healthcare Settings

Heavy lifting is another occupational risk that’s found in almost all healthcare settings. But once again, the risk for nurses can be particularly high. This is due to the sorts of items and objects that nurses might be required to move, from vulnerable patients to expensive and delicate medical devices.

Nurses risk sprains and back injuries whenever they move heavy objects. But if they struggle and falter while moving a vulnerable patient, there’s a risk of concussion, broken bones, or even death.

The Solution

Adequate training in safe lifting techniques can help nurses manage these risks. Hospitals and healthcare settings should also have procedures and protocols in place for moving vulnerable patients. These might include using wheelchairs, stretchers and trolleys wherever possible, and never attempting to move a patient without assistance.

Stress and Exhaustion

There’s no denying that nursing is a tough job. Nurses face life and death situations every day. They work long hours while under considerable pressure, and often for insufficient pay. And as the NHS is currently facing a treatment backlog and a series of strikes and industrial action, it seems like things have never been more difficult for nurses and other healthcare workers.

All of this pressure is going to take its toll. Stress and exhaustion can be harmful in itself. But in the long-term, constant stress and exhaustion can lead to a number of other more serious health conditions.

The Solution

Government plans to tackle the NHS backlog might reduce some of the pressures that nurses face in their roles. But even without the current issues the NHS faces, stress and exhaustion have been occupational hazards in the healthcare sector for years.

The Health Foundation issues a series of recommendations for fixing some of the problems the NHS is currently facing. They suggested that increasing staff numbers could increase hospitals’ capacity, which could mean shorter working hours and reduced workloads for nurses. They also suggested on-the-job mental health and wellbeing support for healthcare staff.

Addressing Occupational Health Hazards for Nurses

From spill kits to infection control services, we offer a range of products and solutions that will help you address many of the occupational health hazards nurses face.

Get in touch to discuss how we can help you make your healthcare setting safer and more efficient for staff and patients alike.

What Key Factors Should Be Considered When Selecting PPE?

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) can make a huge difference in preventing accidents and injuries in certain workplaces, and in preventing the spread of infection in healthcare settings.

Employers are responsible for providing PPE to their employees. You can find a guide to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulations concerning PPE.

What to Consider When Selecting PPE

There are a number of factors to consider when selecting the PPE you need for different settings. This includes:

  • Harmful substance exposure
  • Risk Assessment hazards
  • PPE regulations
  • Who it’s for
  • How much you need

We’ll explore each of these in more detail to help you identify the key factors you need to be considering when selecting and purchasing PPE.

Essential Questions Regarding Substances

Thinking about your workplace – whether it’s a construction site or a hospital – consider the following:

  • What sort of harmful substances are there, and who might be exposed to them?
  • How long might these people be exposed to these substances?
  • How much of these substances are they likely to be exposed to?

Start With a Risk Assessment

Conduct a thorough audit of all of your operations to identify any potential hazards that might require the use of PPE.

Potential hazards might include:

  • Exposure to dust, fumes, aerosols, and other potentially harmful substances.
  • Excessive noise levels.
  • Infection from viruses and bacteria – this is always a risk in healthcare settings. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced many to consider the infection risks in other settings too.

Consider the PPE Regulations in Your Industry

The PPE you provide should be fit for purpose. But you need to match the level of protection you provide to the risks.

Personal Protective Equipment (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 is the statutory guidance for PPE. Among other things, it outlines that all PPE products must be either CE or UKCA marked, indicating that it meets certain regulations.

Talk to your suppliers about the PPE regulations in your industry, and they’ll be able to advise you on remaining compliant. And the better you can explain the task or job that demands PPE, the better they’ll be able to advise on appropriate equipment.

Who Needs to Use PPE?

Size, fit and weight are key things to think about here. All PPE should be comfortable, but the longer a person will have to use it, the more comfortable it’ll have to be. Also think about instances where people might use more than one item of PPE at the same time. All the PPE you provide should be fully compatible. It’s vital that no item of PPE impacts on the effectiveness of any other.

And PPE is essentially useless if it doesn’t fit, or if it’s not used correctly. You should instruct and train people on how to use any PPE you provide.

This is particularly critical in hospital and healthcare settings. Standard Infection Control Precautions in hospitals will often specify not just the type of PPE staff should use, but also how they apply it.

How Much PPE You’ll Need

Some items of PPE can be used again and again. Others are disposable – they’re designed to be used once, and then discarded. Supply and demand is often a critical factor when choosing PPE. One reason it’s so important to identify the potential hazards in your workplace is because it will inform you not just of what sort of PPE you need, but also of how much you need.

In a healthcare setting, workers might get through dozens of gloves and facemasks each day. To prevent the spread of infection, it’s important that they can always depend on a reliable supply of the PPE they need. So when choosing PPE, along with comfort and wearability, hospitals might account for availability, shipping times and costs, and storage requirements.

Need a Hand Choosing PPE for Your Workplace?

We offer many services that’ll help you equip your staff with the PPE they need – particularly in healthcare environments.

Our workplace exposure monitoring services can feed into your initial risk assessment. We can help you identify possible sources of infection and contamination, and our comprehensive reports include discussions and recommendations for keeping your staff safe.

We can also help you ensure both your staff and your PPE is up to scratch, with our specialist spill kit training for hospitals, and our face fit testing services for medical settings.

Finally, we also stock a huge range of specialist PPE equipment, including an extensive selection of absorbent mats for hospitals.

Want to talk about how we can help you choose the right PPE for your workplace? Get in touch to talk to one of our air purification experts today.


Cleaning for Infection Prevention and Control in Operating Theatres

Studies show that surgical site infections (SSIs) constitute around 20% of total hospital-acquired infections. So infection prevention and control in operating theatres is essential for ensuring the safety of the patient.

Sources of Infection in Operating Theatres

Most SSIs occur during the operative procedure, when the patient’s wounds are still open. Sources of infection can include:

  • Members of the operating team, and the clothing they wear.
  • The operating theatre environment, including the air quality.
  • The equipment used during the procedure.

Stringent protocols can make a huge difference in minimising the onset of SSIs. Every medical setting should have a robust set of infection control protocols in place, and every member of the operating staff should be familiar with these protocols.

Please note that this post should not be used in place of infection control protocols. Rather, it should be used as a general guide to the sort of items that might factor into your protocols.

Operating Room Environment Measures to Control Infection

The operating theatre should be aseptic, highly-sterile, and restricted. The following measures can help prevent and control infection in operating theatres:

  • Proper ventilation with 20 air changes each hour.
  • Separate doors for entry and exit. Sliding doors can minimise air currents as people enter and leave the room.
  • The operating theatre complex should be properly zoned based on the levels of cleanliness, the presence of microorganisms, and the types of procedures carried out. There should be separate areas for preparation and disposal, for scrubbing and gowning, and for the storage, sterilisation, assembly and washing of materials and equipment.

Staff Clothing

All surgical staff must carry out a surgical hand wash before the procedure. This involves applying an antimicrobial agent in a circular motion, from the tips of the fingers up to about 5cm above the elbow. This rubbing should take place for at least three minutes.

When it comes to operating theatre clothing, use “barrier techniques” where the chances of infection spread are highest. Ideally, all operating theatre clothing should be disposable, and where possible, made from soft, nonporous materials.

  • Head covers – All facial and head hair should be properly tied and covered. Long hair should be tied into a bun.
  • Masks – Masks work to prevent the transmission of infectious agents from the operating team to the patient’s open wounds. They also protect the operating team from splashes and sprays from the patient. The masks should be disposable, made from synthetic materials, and properly fitted.
  • Scrubs– Scrubs should be comfortable and, if not disposable, they should be easy to wash and clean. They should have as simple a design as possible, to reduce the areas where contaminants could develop.
  • Gowns – When it comes to gowns, there should be a set procedure for applying them to reduce the risk of contamination. It’s a two-person job, in which both people should avoid touching the outside of the gown.
  • Gloves – Again, there should be a set procedure for applying gloves. It begins with a thorough handwash in aseptic conditions, after which you should avoid, as much as is possible, touching the outside of the glove with your bear hands.

Operating theatres must also use drapes to contain the operating environment, and to cover all parts of the patient apart from the operative site.

Surgical Equipment Cleaning for Infection Prevention

All operating theatre machinery must be surveyed at least once a week. Any fault should be reported to the infection control team, who can then take appropriate measures to maintain the infection control protocols.

Any reusable surgical instruments must be thoroughly cleaned before use. The reprocessing procedure might involve:

  • Cleaning – To remove any organic matter on the surface of the equipment. Some equipment may require soaking prior to cleaning.
  • Disinfection and sterilisation – Disinfection involves using appropriate chemical disinfection agents to reduce the number of microorganisms present. Sterilisation involves removing all microbes from the surface of the equipment, including spores, using steam, dry heat, ethylene oxide, or other chemicals. It’s usually necessary to wrap or package equipment before sterilising it.
  • Storage – Once processed, all surgical equipment must be properly stored in a sterile environment, and only handled again once it’s ready to be used on patients.

The specific cleaning procedure will vary depending on the type of equipment. For example, some surgical equipment can be cleaned and dried in an automated washer. Some instruments may require cleaning in an ultrasonic unit, after which they’ll need to go through a separate rinsing and drying procedure before they’re sterilised ready for storage.

Floor and Surface Cleaning in Operating Theatres

From floor to ceiling, all surfaces should be washable and with a minimum of joints. This will help reduce the accumulation of dust and other particulates.

Absorbent mats can also make a huge difference. They can capture fluids during procedures, making it much easier to dispose of them afterwards. This can vastly improve your turnaround times with no need to compromise on hygiene standards. They also dry quickly, which can help prevent slips and falls.

Essential Support for Infection Prevention and Control in Operating Theatres

We offer many services and solutions that can help you stay on top of infection prevention and control in operating theatres.

Our services include:

  • Air purification
  • Face-fit testing
  • Washroom hygiene solutions
  • Fluid management solutions, including floor mats
  • Comprehensive infection control solutions, including cleaning equipment, disposal containers, and sanitising chemicals

Our experts are always on-hand to discuss your needs. So if you’d like some guidance on infection prevention and control in operating theatres, get in touch to talk to an expert today.


Face Masks & Beards: Will Corona Kill The Beard?

Facial hair has become a fashion staple in recent years. From uber manicured stubble, to the full on hipster beard, it’s a trend that has shown no signs of slowing. Until now.

The sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen life change immeasurably for millions of people around the world an everyone taking the necessary steps to keep both themselves and their loved ones safe.

The use of face masks to protect against Coronavirus continues to be a hot topic and until such time as a vaccine is found it is likely that we will see their widespread use.

However, to be effective, masks must be used correctly. And this is where the beard could meet its demise. It stands to reason that the closer a mask can fit, the more effective it is. It has long been a rule that healthcare workers with facial hair cannot have a mask fitted. The Journal of Hospital Infection has today published a study which backs up the theory that keeping the beard could put men at greater risk from airborne particles. For more information, read the study.

Hospitals will lead from the front and advise staff accordingly, as their frontline teams will must be face fit tested with masks creating an adequate seal. However it is important that this message filters down to key workers and care staff, so that no matter what grade of mask they are using they can get the best out of it and keep themselves safe.

Finally, it is likely that we will see the general public using masks for some time to come and it is key that everyone knows how to get the most out of their facemask.

So it could be bye bye beards…

Why PPE Must Really Protect

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic there is much being reported about PPE, and in particular, the distinct lack of it.

Cairn Technology has been a health and safety expert in the medical sector for over 20 years and has worked extensively with UK hospitals in providing top quality PPE for chemical spills, and training staff in the correct usage of the equipment. This puts us in a ideal position to enter the current debate on the situation in the UK.

The first thing to be aware of is that there are different grades of PPE. Frontline workers need equipment which meets certain standards, using lesser quality items puts them at risk of infection. And whilst there is an argument that says something is better than nothing, these people have a right to do their job with the correct equipment and protection.

Many organisations have responded to the shortage by manufacturing PPE, however, unless it can be verified to these standards it cannot be commissioned for frontline staff. By the same token, there are news reports that, for example, millions of facemasks have been offered to the government by UK companies. What isn’t properly reported is that these masks are either not of the standard required, or the prices are prohibitive.

Cairn has been working extensively with front line staff on face fit testing – to ensure that the FFP3 masks worn by those providing primary care fit with an effective seal around the face. This provides 96% protection for the wearer, and is why you may have seen pictures of doctors and nurses with bruised faces from long days wearing these items. To dispel another myth, surgical masks which simply cover the nose and mouth without creating an effective seal are not adequate for frontline staff.

The cost of one of the recommended FFP3 masks was previously in the £5-£6 bracket. The asking price for the few which are available is now around £40 per mask. This kind of unethical profiteering is preventing equipment from reaching the frontline. Whilst the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has been unprecedented it is important that the public understand that all spending must be paid back somehow, at some future point.

It seems that some supplies of PPE are now reaching the frontline, but the need will continue long into the future. One of the best ways for us to keep frontline staff safe is to ensure that what equipment they are provided with is up to standard and provides adequate protection. The public getting caught up in the media storm and buying into unreliable reporting is not helpful and detracts from the task in hand.

As a long term supplier of PPE, Cairn Technology is working hard to try to source the correct equipment at a fair price, to enable us to continue long term relationships within the medical and care industries. Our customer relationships are built on trust and that is something that we will not be exploiting.

Watch this space for updates.