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Risk Management: Assessing the Physical Environment

HIghland Risk Services - Risk Management

Facilities involved in providing services for the elderly must assess, mitigate, and monitor certain risks involved with their daily operations. One of these risks is the actual physical environment of the facility. In order to limit and (hopefully) prevent situations that may result in litigation, environmental risk management places a strong emphasis on targeting the problems that could arise and implementing systems that help with prevention.

The first step to properly ensuring risk management of the physical environment is to identify the most critical areas of risk. Areas assessed should include all indoor and outdoor spaces commonly used by residents, family, visitors, and volunteers, i.e. buildings, grounds, and parking. This should include, but is not limited to:

  • Nursing stations
  • Corridors
  • Common tub/shower room
  • Lounge and dining spaces
  • Access to outdoors
  • Facility entrance

Additionally, the following questions should be asked:

  • Are stairs and hallways well lighted?
  • Are exits well marked?
  • Do the hallways have handrails?
  • Do rooms and bathrooms have grab bars and call buttons?
  • Are there safety locks on the doors and windows?
  • Are there security and fire safety systems?
  • Is there an emergency generator or alternate power source?

One of the facility's best tools for managing the physical environment is the Facility Condition Assessment (FCA). This methodical observation of each building and site system is designed to provide not only a “to-do” list for improvement, but also to project replacement and renewal requirements.

Relevant issues tend to be grouped as architectural, mechanical, and electrical. Regularly scheduled walk-around inspections to note daily operations are extremely important as knowledge gleaned can provide valuable information to those who perform the annual, biennial, or less-frequent formal FCAs.

One of the goals of an FCA is to identify systems reaching the end of their estimated life cycles. Another primary reason is to identify code compliance problems, estimate the cost of resolving them, and determine schedules to fund and accomplish this work.

At Highland Risk, we understand the need to assess the physical environment of senior living facilities to minimize risk and protect facilities from exposure. Please contact us today for additional information about the programs we offer at one of our two offices in Chicago at 847-832-9100 or Lansing at 517-676-7100.

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