In response to the health care sector's high rate of workplace injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expanding its oversight program for inpatient care facilities, Anthony Brino writes for Healthcare Finance.
Background on health care workplace injuries
Earlier this year, an NPR investigation found that nurses suffer more debilitating back injuries than any other occupation, simply by doing their job of lifting and moving patients.
More broadly, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that rates of workplace injury are higher in health care than in any other industry—"despite the availability of feasible controls which have been identified to address hazards," wrote OSHA Enforcement Director Thomas Galassi in a memo to state and regional staff.
Specifically, the incidence rate for nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2012 was 6.6% for hospitals and 7.6% for nursing homes and residential care facilities, compared with the private industry average of 3.4%.
OSHA says it will allocate additional resources under its National Emphasis Program on Nursing and Residential Care Facilities to focus on inpatient facilities with "occupational illness and injury rates above the industry average."
OSHA will also "continue to use both enforcement and collaborative efforts" to address various workplace hazards.
Galassi notes such hazards might include staff:
- Developing musculoskeletal disorders from lifting patients or residents;
- Being exposed to tuberculosis or bloodborne pathogens;
- Slipping, tripping, or falling; and
- Being a victim of workplace violence.
The agency says that it could audit and fine hospitals that fail to take proper safety precautions (Brino, Healthcare Finance, 6/11).
The takeaway: OSHA will begin more closely regulating workplace safety in the health care industry because of an excess of on-the-job injuries.