Hincks: One strategy to better protect your employees

Adapting to new OSHA regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week announced it will crack down on workplace hazards in hospitals and nursing homes to help address an "epidemic" of arm and back injuries among nurses and nursing assistants. The Daily Briefing's Clare Rizer spoke with Advisory Board senior analyst Marcus Hincks about how providers can partner with vendors to mediate these issues.

Q. Are the new OSHA regulations a sign of shifting priorities for health systems and hospitals?

Marcus Hincks: OSHA's crackdown on workplace hazards in hospitals and nursing homes shows a long overdue recognition for an ongoing problem in the health care industry: workplace safety.

According to a recent survey by Ergotron, a staggering 60% of nurses are concerned that their job is negatively affecting their overall health, with 76% reporting physical discomfort and 12% being injured on the job over the last year. These numbers point to an alarming trend—that some providers are failing to provide their employees with safe, ergonomically efficient work environments.

Q. What do you see as the most important step providers must take to address these issues?

Hincks: Definitely collaboration. Providers may be trained to work and practice medicine independently, but creating a safe, ergonomically efficient, and OSHA-compliant work environment requires collaboration, partnership, and trust between themselves and vendors.

Q. Can you give some examples of how collaboration positively impacts both providers and vendors?

Hincks: Employee satisfaction is ultimately the key to delivering high-quality patient care—dissatisfied employees will pass those burdens onto patients, which can negatively affect the patient satisfaction and quality metrics connected to financial reimbursements.

So, vendors offering ergonomically efficient products and services can help keep providers' employees safe and satisfied while ultimately protecting their margins.

Medical equipment manufacturers now produce a myriad of ergonomically efficient equipment to prevent workplace injuries, improve employee satisfaction, and keep providers compliant with OSHA standards. Hydraulic patient-lifting systems, for instance, can prevent musculoskeletal disorders related to improperly patient handling, while portable, height-adjustable workstations can also minimize back strains related to sedentary tasks like data entry into EHR systems.

Although providers may face short-term budgetary constraints, the long-term financial benefits of increased employee recruitment and retention, reduced health benefits expenses, and increased patient satisfaction are worth partnering with vendors to address workplace hazards.

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