The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD ) has launched its latest report in the economics of patient safety series, Safety in the workplace: Occupational safety as the bedrock of resilient health systems. The report outlines the points included below:
· In OECD countries, the health and social care systems now employ more workers than ever before. In 2017, over 1 in 10 jobs were in the health or social care sectors.
· Health care settings are inherently hazardous places, with very unpredictable and complex working environments. The stakes are high, and working conditions are often stressful. In some countries, the likelihood of sustaining occupational injury in health care ranks among other high-risk industries, such as mining or construction. Health care settings face high job turnover, high job dropout rates, and high levels of absenteeism.
· The main types of workplace injury and harm in health care settings include infection, interpersonal violence, physical injury, and mental ill-health. These hazards and risks not only result in a range of injuries and ill-health among workers but also jeopardise the safety of patients.
· Improving worker well-being has intrinsic value, but it also lowers the costs of occupational harm (estimated at up to 2% of health spending) and contributes to minimising patient harm (estimated at up to 12% of health spending).
· Countries should adopt policies that enable a flexible workforce with appropriate safeguards, thus putting parameters around local adaptability. The health workforce needs to be supported though concrete policy actions and appropriate resources. This includes not only resources highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic—such as PPE, testing, and vaccination—but also legal protections, access to psychological support, and services to promote employee well-being.
· A system that has built-in elements of adaptive capacity is much more likely to withstand, and prove resilient, in the face of a crisis. An adaptive approach needs workers to be furnished with the skills and knowledge to deploy change in their own environments. Teams must also have access to information to successfully plan, implement and assess improvement initiatives.
· Promoting well-being and safety in the workplace—beyond preventing harm—provides scope for proactive strategies that create adaptability and resilience. This perspective also aligns with important upstream determinants such as leadership, a positive working environment and a supportive culture, which determine success in other aspects of health system performance.