Firefighting to innovation: using human factors & ergonomics to tackle slip, trip and fall risks in hospitals

Objective: The aim of this study was to use a theoretical model (bench) for human factors and ergonomics (HFE) and a comparison with occupational slips, trips, and falls (STFs) risk management to discuss patient STF interventions (bedside). Background: Risk factors for patient STFs have been identified and reported since the 1950s and are mostly unchanged in the 2010s. The prevailing clinical view has been that STF events indicate underlying frailty or illness, and so many of the interventions over the past 60 years have focused on assessing and treating physiological factors (dizziness, illness, vision/hearing, medicines) rather than designing interventions to reduce risk factors at the time of the STF. Method: Three case studies are used to discuss how HFE has been, or could be, applied to STF risk management as (a) a design-based (building) approach to embed safety into the built environment, (b) a staff- (and organization-) based approach, and (c) a patient behavior–based approach to explore and understand patient perspectives of STF events. Results and Conclusion: The results from the case studies suggest taking a similar HFE integration approach to other industries, that is, a sustainable design intervention for the person who experiences the STF event—the patient. Application: This paper offers a proactive problem-solving approach to reduce STFs by patients in acute hospitals. Authors of the three case studies use HFE principles (bench/book) to understand the complex systems for facility and equipment design and include the perspective of all stakeholders (bedside).