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Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2001 Sep;22(9):555-9.

Infection control practices among correctional healthcare workers: effect of management attitudes and availabiity of protective equipment and engineering controls.

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  • 1The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



To determine the relation of the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and engineering controls to infection control (IC) practices in a prison healthcare setting, and to explore the effect on IC practices of a perceived organizational commitment to safety.


Cross-sectional survey.


The study population was drawn from the 28 regional Correctional Health Care Workers Facilities in Maryland.


All full-time Maryland correctional healthcare workers (HCWs) were surveyed, and 225 (64%) of the 350 responded.


A confidential, self-administered questionnaire was mailed to all correctional HCWs employed in the 28 Maryland Correctional Health Care Facilities. The questionnaire was analyzed psychometrically and validated through extensive pilot testing. It included items on three major constructs: IC practices, safety climate (defined as the perception of organizational commitment to safety), and availability of IC equipment and supplies.


A strong correlation was found between the availability of PPE and IC practices. Similarly, a strong correlation was found between IC practices and the presence of engineering controls. In addition, an equally strong association was seen between the adoption of IC practices and employee perception of management commitment to safety. Those employees who perceived a high level of management support for safety were more than twice as likely to adhere to recommended IC practices. IC practices were significantly more likely to be followed if PPE was always readily available. Similarly, IC practices were more likely to be followed if engineering controls were provided.


These findings suggest that ready availability of PPE and the presence of engineering controls are crucial to help ensure their use in this high-risk environment. This is especially important because correctional HCWs are potentially at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as human immunodeficiency virus and hepatitis B and C viruses. Commitment to safety was found to be highly associated with the adoption of safe work practices. There is an inherent conflict of "custody versus care" in this setting; hence, it is especially important that we understand and appreciate the relation between safety climate and IC practices. Interventions designed to improve safety climate, as well as availability of necessary IC supplies and equipment, will most likely prove effective in improving employee compliance with IC practices in this healthcare setting.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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