OSHA Announces Increased Enforcement at Hospitals
The rate of work-related injuries and illnesses at U.S. hospitals is nearly twice as high as the overall rate for private industry. OSHA has asked inspectors to focus on five key hazards at hospitals and other inpatient care sites including nursing homes. Get details on the hazards and find out why OSHA is so concerned about this vulnerable worker population.
Although the agency has officially ended a three-year National Emphasis Program for healthcare workplaces, its focus on the industry remains strong. In a recently published guidance document, OSHA reminds inspectors to continue to look for these leading causes of injury and illness:
- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) due to patient handling;
- Bloodborne pathogens;
- Workplace violence;
- Tuberculosis; and
- Slips, trips, and falls.
In addition, OSHA has asked inspectors to check for other hazards, including exposure to multi-drug resistant organisms such as MRSA, and exposure to hazardous chemicals like sanitizers, disinfectants, anesthetic gases, and hazardous drugs.
The challenge of protecting healthcare workers is considerable, with U.S. hospitals recording nearly 58,000 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2013. According to OSHA chief David Michaels PhD, “Workers who take care of us when we are sick or hurt should not be at such high risk for injuries—that simply is not right.” Noting that OSHA has provided training and resource materials, Michaels adds, “It’s time for hospitals and the healthcare industry to make the changes necessary to protect their workers.”
Important information about hospital hazards
The following are OSHA’s focus hazards for hospitals and care facilities.
MSDs and overexertion. Nearly half of all reported injuries in health care were attributed to overexertion-related incidents. In 2013, orderlies, nursing assistants, and personal care aides continued to have some of the highest MSD rates of all occupations.
Workplace violence. Violence is a recognized hazard in hospitals and nursing and residential care facilities, and the rate increased for the second year in a row to 16.2 cases per 10,000 full-time workers. There were approximately 14,440 assaults in hospitals and healthcare facilities.
Bloodborne pathogens and tuberculosis. The bloodborne pathogens standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, is one of the most frequently cited standards in healthcare workplaces. And according to CDC, employees in nursing and care facilities are among the occupational groups with the highest risk for exposure to TB.
Slips, trips, and falls (STFs). Taken together, overexertion and slips, trips, and falls accounted for 69 percent of all reported cases with days away from work in hospitals and care facilities.
OSHA wants inspectors to ask questions like these
The new guidance document spells out the types of questions the agency wants inspectors to ask. Among them are the following:
- Is there a system for hazard identification and analysis?
- Is there a system for development of strategies to address identified hazards?
- Who has responsibility and authority for administering this system?
- What input have employees provided in the development of employee lifting and transfer procedures?
- Are there records of recent changes in policies/procedures and an evaluation of their effect on resident handling injuries and illnesses?
- Is there a recognized process to ensure that work-related disorders are identified and treated early?
- Have employees been trained in recognition of ergonomic hazards associated with manual lifting or transferring, early reporting of injuries, and a process for abating those hazards?
- Are there appropriate quantities and types of assistive devices such as mechanical lifts available within close proximity and properly maintained?
Learn more about OSHA’s plans for healthcare enforcement at https://www.osha.gov/dep/enforcement/inpatient_insp_06252015.html.