26
Feb 2014
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Providence Health Care Workers at High Risk for Work Injury

Rhode Island’s largest healthcare organization slashed jobs recently amidst a serious financial crisis. Jobs were reportedly cut across the board as hospitals faced losses for more than six months in a row. Uncompensated care, the poor economy, the Affordable Care Act, and cuts in Medicaid and Medicare were all blamed for the healthcare organization’s woes. 

Unfortunately, the reduction in staff was not the first to occur in Rhode Island healthcare facilities. Each reduction leaves already-beleaguered workers with more on-the-job obligations and with a greater risk of being injured at work. Hospital workers already face a high risk of injury due to tough working conditions, prompting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to release educational materials aimed at making healthcare workplaces safer.  Unfortunately, this effort by OSHA is unlikely to have a substantial impact on reducing workplace risks for hospital staff.

Regardless of whether safety rules are followed, healthcare employees can make a work injury claim if they are hurt on the job. A Providence workers’ comp attorney at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help injured workers.

OSHA Recommends Safety Improvements for Hospitals

In 2012, a total of 250,000 workplace injuries were reported among hospital workers.  The total cost of losses from these injuries was around $2 billion. Most of the injuries were caused by factors such as:

  • Workplace violence
  • Slip and falls
  • Chemical exposure
  • Moving and lifting patients
  • Exposure to hazardous drugs
  • Infectious disease risks
  • Needlesticks

A total of 6.8 out of every 100 healthcare workers experienced an injury due to these or other factors.  Around 60,000 of the injuries experienced by hospital workers in 2012 were serious enough to necessitate days off from work.

Reducing the rate of injury needs to be a top priority. Unfortunately, OSHA is understaffed and has limited ability to actually inspect hospitals and ensure that safety regulations are being followed to protect workers. Absent the ability to effectively enforce safety rules, OSHA has released some resources designed to help hospitals and healthcare workers take charge of making work conditions safer.

The resources have been compiled on a new educational website, which contains:

  • Training materials.
  • Details about safe patient handling to reduce the risk of overexertion injuries.
  • Information on Safety & Health management systems, which can help to build a “culture of safety” in hospital settings.

OSHA’s educational materials could make it easier for employers and workers to try to avoid injuries. However, employers often need incentive to follow the rules, especially when financial difficulties could create an incentive for corners to be cut.  OSHA has limited ability to actually make employers put a premium on protecting workers, both because of the agency’s understaffing issues and because citations and fines for safety violations are often negligible.  Unless and until employers know that they must protect hospital and healthcare workers or face real consequences, cash strapped hospitals may continue to allow dangerous work conditions to remain.

Contact a Providence workers’ compensation attorney at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl if you are hurt on the job. Call 508-677-4900 or visit www.dgklaw.com to schedule your free consultation. 

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