For the 13th consecutive year, Good Shepherd Nursing Home in Wheeling has been honored with the top safety award given by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Good Shepherd received the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program Award, which recognizes employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system.
The award is an achievement of status that singles out Good Shepherd as a model for worksite safety and health. Good Shepherd, West Virginia's largest nonprofit nursing home, is one of only 10 West Virginia workplaces to win the honor this year, and the only healthcare facility so honored.
Representing Good Shepherd employees are members of the nursing home’s safety committee, seated from left, Jessica Toland, business office; Clarke Moore, dietary; Vickie Henderson, activities; Tammy Morris, activities; Vickie Thalman, nursing; second row from left, Betty Schafer, housekeeping; Barbara Ball, nursing; Flor Lopez-Prianti, business office; Faby Prianti, nursing; Becky Mundy, nursing; third row from left, Suzie Dailer, nursing; Diana Pastorius, business office manager; Shirley Greathouse, dietary; Bob Schafer, housekeeping; Carol Bowman, activities director; Deanna Lilley, business office; Marianne Vargo, dietary manager; back row from left, Art Lough, maintenance, and Mike Nolan, maintenance supervisor.
Good Shepherd Administrator Donald R. Kirsch said the nursing home's excellent safety record is due to the efforts of staff. "Safety is first and foremost a team effort," Kirsch said.
Receiving the SHARP Award in 2000 and retaining SHARP status every year since then has been one of the greatest accomplishments in the nursing home's history, he said.
This safety record came after OSHA found a high rate of work-related injuries on the job in 1997. A nursing home team, led by staff development director Barbara Ball, worked to rewrite the institution's safety program and ensure that all staff were appropriately trained, which resulted in a 62 percent reduction in workplace injuries in the first year alone.
Ball said the team reviewed all the incident reports to determine how injuries could be prevented and found that many workers sustained musculoskeletal injuries related to patient positioning.
"We also installed suggestion boxes and asked departments to assess each other's areas to identify safety hazards," she said. As a result, Good Shepherd made significant revisions to its safety policies and implemented a number of important changes.
A "no-lift" policy was instituted. To help staff assist dependent residents from their beds or chairs, Good Shepherd purchased mechanical lifting devices. It also installed a lift platform to help dietary staff move food carts and provided back support belts to remind all staff to use good boody mechanics. To prevent falls, the nursing home made building modifications, installing non-slip floor tiles, and procedural modifications such as mopping only half the width of a hallway at a time.
Winning the award consistently since safety procedures were rewritten shows the nursing home's determination to maintain workplace safety, Ball said. "This shows it wasn't just a flash in the pan. We have stability and an ongoing commitment to protecting our workers," she said.
The commitment extends beyond falls and injuries from lifting. "We have policies that deal with infection control, intruders and workplace violence," she said. "We want to protect our residents and our staff."
In addition to achieving OSHA compliance and reducing workplace injuries, Good Shepherd's safety program has resulted in significant savings. From 2000 to 2010, the nursing home saved $1.7 million in workers compensation costs, which it used to improve wages and benefits for staff.
"This has reduced staff turnover, creating a more efficient and highly skilled and competent workforce," Kirsch said. "Fewer turnovers create savings in hiring and training, and a highly skilled workforce makes fewer mistakes, reducing exposure to liability and keeping insurance premiums low."
Good Shepherd Nursing Home was established in 1970 to provide long-term care and services to aged residents of West Virginia's Northern Panhandle and contiguous counties in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The 175,000-square-foot building is home to 192 residents.