Workers at hospitals throughout the United States face nearly twice the risk of getting hurt on-the-job compared with the overall rate of workplace injury in private sector. Safety BLR reports OSHA has published new guidance for inspectors of hospital work environments in order to direct the focus to some of the biggest risks that health workers face.
While OSHA inspections should prevent hazardous conditions in hospitals, these facilities are often not inspected frequently enough to ensure that dangerous conditions are actually being prevented. Workers have the right to contact OSHA if they are subject to dangerous conditions and have the right to make a workers' compensation claim if they get hurt while performing work duties.
OSHA's New Focus on Prevention of Healthcare Injuries
OSHA has defined four focus hazards within hospitals and health care facilities. These include:
- Overexertion injuries and musculoskeletal disorders. Almost half of all injuries reported in the health care industry are attributed to overexertion accidents that damage the muscles and soft tissues of the body. Workers at the greatest risk include nursing assistants, personal care aids, and orderlies.
- Slips, trips, and falls. Slips, trips and falls together with overexertion injuries account for 69 percent of all cases in which workers in hospitals and healthcare facilities suffer injuries that necessitate days away from work.
- Workplace violence. The number of hospital, nursing care, and residential care facility workers who are hurt due to violence has increased for the second year in a row. For every 10,000 full-time workers in the health care field, there are 16.2 cases of workplace violence causing injury. Over the course of a single year 14,440 assaults in hospitals and care facilities caused harm to health workers.
- Tuberculosis and blood borne pathogens. OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.1030 is one of the most frequently violated standards resulting in citations in health care settings and employees who work in hospitals or nursing homes have one of the highest risks of TB exposure of all professions.
To help prevent these common injuries, OSHA has outlined specific questions that employers should ask when they inspect a healthcare work environment. These questions include things like whether a system has been developed for identifying and tracking hazards and whether there is someone who has been assigned responsibility for administering that system. OSHA also looks for record-keeping of changes in policies and procedures and data on whether the procedures has had an impact on how injuries and illnesses are handled.
Employees in the healthcare field should also receive training on early reporting of injuries, as well as on the ergonomic hazards associated with transferring and manual lifting. Assistive devices such as mechanical lifts should be made available where possible and should be properly maintained at all times so they remain functional and safe.
In 2013, almost 58,000 work-related illnesses and injuries were reported among workers in U.S. hospitals. Hopefully, with OSHA's renewed focus on the most common causes of injuries, this injury rate can come down.