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Knowledge at Work - UL Workplace Health & Safety

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Occupational Health

New OSHA inspection initiative focuses on healthcare

November 11, 2011 - Posted by Todd Hohn

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We knew it was coming: OSHA has announced an initiative to crack down on healthcare industries by initiating special emphasis programs to address alarming injury stats in healthcare environments. Newly released data from The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that the incident rate for nonfatal occupational injuries is increasing among healthcare workers. In response, Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, last week announced an inspection initiative designed to decrease workplace dangers to health employees.

According to the data, the rate of injuries for healthcare support workers increased by 6 percent last year (to 283 cases per 10,000 full-time employees). That’s more than double the rate for all public and private employees overall. The data also show that the rate of musculoskeletal disorder cases with days missed from work for nursing aides, orderlies and attendants increased by 10 percent.

In a Nov. 9 press release, Dr. Michaels issued the following statement:

[box]“It is unacceptable that the workers who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are sick are the very same workers who face the highest risk of work-related injury and illness. These injuries can end up destroying a family’s emotional and financial security. While workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities take an enormous toll on this nation’s economy – the toll on injured workers and their families is intolerable.

“The rates of injuries and illnesses among hospital and health care workers underscore OSHA’s concern about the safety and health of these workers. OSHA is responding by launching, in the next few months, a National Emphasis Program on Nursing Home and Residential Care Facilities. Through this initiative, we will increase our inspections of these facilities, focusing on back injuries from resident handling or lifting patients; exposure to bloodborne pathogens and other infectious diseases; workplace violence; and slips, trips and falls.[/box]

So, what does this mean? If you operate a nursing home or residential care facility, be prepared for OSHA to be more active in your facility. Expect increased inspections targeting back injuries, bloodborne pathogens exposures, workplace violence and slips/trips/and falls. If you are not aggressively addressing these exposures, now is the time to start.

The entire healthcare industry should take notice and monitor this special emphasis program. When, not if, OSHA has statistics that prove their emphasis program was a success, they will put other healthcare environments in the cross-hairs. These same types of exposures in nursing homes and residential care facilities exist in other healthcare environments such as hospitals and clinics.

In our recent webinar, OSHA in Healthcare: Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Dr. Scott Harris predicted that with incident rates far higher than general industry norms, healthcare begs for increased regulatory intervention. This is a wake-up call for healthcare professionals.

Visit our Healthcare Compliance Resource page to stay informed and help you prepare for OSHA’s new initiative targeting healthcare organizations.


Topics: compliance, occupational health, workplace safety, OSHA, healthcare, employee health, occupational safety, injury prevention, illness prevention, hospital, employees, department of labor