OSHA to Focus on Certain Key Hazards During Healthcare Inspections

As announced a few days ago, OSHA is expanding its use of enforcement resources in hospitals and nursing homes to focus on the following recognized hazards: i) musculoskeletal disorders related to patient or resident handling; ii) bloodborne pathogens; iii) workplace violence; iv) tuberculosis; and v) slips, trips, and falls. These hazards represent some of the most common causes of workplace injury and illness in the healthcare industry. Notably, the injury/illness rate for injuries and illnesses to hospital workers (in 2013) was almost twice as high as the overall rate for private industry. In that regard, hospitals recorded nearly 58,000 work-related injuries and illnesses, amounting to 6.4 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees.

On this subject, Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, remarked that healthcare workers “should not be at such high risk for injuries – that simply is not right. Workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities have work injury and illness rates that are among the highest in the country, and virtually all of these injuries and illnesses are preventable.”  Dr. Michaels added that “recent statistics tell us that almost half of all reported injuries in the healthcare industry were attributed to overexertion and related tasks. Nurses and nursing assistants each accounted for a substantial share of this total.”

In view of OSHA’s stated focus (and the apparent prevalence of the hazards), those charged with overseeing and implementing safety practices in the healthcare setting might want to further evaluate their own practices. One resource, OSHA’s “Hospital eTool” webpage, describes standard requirements as well as recommended safe work practices in all of the following areas: administration; central supply; clinical services; dietary; emergency; engineering; heliport; housekeeping; ICU; laboratory; laundry; pharmacy; surgical suite; healthcare wide hazards; and other healthcare wide hazards.

Prior blog posts regarding safety and health in the healthcare setting, and resources, may be found here (respiratory protection programs) and here (safe patient handling programs).

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