Archive for July, 2015

Jul 2015

Protecting Providence Healthcare Workers is Essential to Improving Safety

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyOver the course of 2013, almost 58,000 workers in hospitals and healthcare settings suffered workplace injuries and illnesses. Workers in the healthcare field have almost twice the chances of being hurt in their workplace compared with other people working in the private sector. A high rate of workplace injuries leads to more workers’ compensation claims, unnecessary costs, reduced productivity, and decreased quality of life.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently concluded a three year National Emphasis Program for healthcare workplaces designed to prevent workplace injuries among high-risk workers.  While the program has come to an end, Safety BLR indicates OSHA has announced new guidelines for inspectors who are going into healthcare workplaces to identify safety violations. These guidelines are designed to address the most common issues that make hospital and other healthcare workers sick or injured.

OSHA, unfortunately, does not have enough inspectors to regularly inspect every facility. Employers and employees should be aware of the OSHA areas of focus and should voluntarily take steps to try to prevent the most common injury risks.

OSHA Has New Guidelines for Hospital and Healthcare Workplaces

OSHA has identified five of the most common causes of workplace illness and injury for inspectors to focus on when inspections of health facilities are conducted. These include:

  • Slips, trips, and falls.  Slips, trips, and falls– along with overexertion injuries– are the cause of 69 percent of all reported work injuries necessitating that healthcare workers take days off from work.
  • Overexertion injuries. Approximately half of the injuries that are reported among healthcare workers are caused by overexertion leading to musculoskeletal disorders.  Orderlies, nursing assistants, and personal care aids have a significantly higher rate of overexertion injuries and musculoskeletal damage compared with people in other industries.  Many of these injuries come from lifting patients.  OSHA recommends the use of mechanical lifts in healthcare settings whenever possible.
  • Blood borne pathogens. Needle sticks are a significant risk factor for workplace illness among health workers. OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.1030, designed to prevent exposure to blood borne pathogens is also one of the top most violated standards leading to OSHA citations in healthcare workplaces.
  • Tuberculosis.  Workers in hospital and nursing settings have one of the highest risks of developing TB across employees in all industries.
  • Violence in the workplace.  Over the course of one year, there were 14,440 reported assaults among healthcare and hospital worker. Violence in nursing homes and other healthcare settings has increased for the second year in a row and 16.2 workers are assaulted or victimized by violence for every 10,000 workers in a healthcare setting.

The risk of these injuries and top causes of illness can be reduced if safety precautions are taken. OSHA inspectors are encouraged to ask specific questions when performing inspections in hospital and health settings in order to determine if adequate steps are being taken to reduce injuries. For example, OSHA inspectors should ask if there are training protocols and hazard-prevention systems in place and if anyone has been identified who is in charge of operating these programs.

If adequate steps are taken to protect healthcare workers, hopefully the high rates of injury in this industry can be reduced and the workers who take care of patients can be safer in their professions.