OSHA Cracks Down on Nurse Injuries

If you’re a nurse employed in a Southern California hospital, are you at a particularly high risk of sustaining a workplace injury? Over the last several months, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has been investigating healthcare workplace injuries due to a “sharp uptick” in reported incidents, according to a recent article from Fierce Healthcare. In response to its findings, OSHA has “announced a new initiative to drastically increase scrutiny among hospital nursing staff.” In other words, nurses are at serious risk of sustaining injuries on the job, and OSHA wants to curb these incidents.8116070408_bd74655b13

High Rates of Nonfatal Injuries Among Nursing Staff

According to a news release from OSHA about its new initiative, patient handling plays a significant role in healthcare workplace injuries. What kinds of numbers are we talking about? OSHA articulates that, “on average, U.S. hospitals recorded 6.4 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees in 2013, compared with 3.3. per 100 full-time employees for all U.S. industries combined.”

In the hospital setting, nearly 35 percent of injuries that prevented hospital employees from working were linked to patient interactions. Indeed, more than half of all injuries to nursing assistants were classified as musculoskeletal disorders that may have been avoidable through the implementation of a comprehensive safe patient handling program. How do nurses sustain these injuries?

In general, moving and lifting patients can be hazardous to a nurse’s health. While hospitals encourage nurses to use “body mechanics” strategies to prevent injuries, those tactics simply aren’t sufficient. Special equipment used to lift patients has proven to be the only way to keep hospital staff free of preventable injuries.

Preventing Healthcare Workplace Injuries

How will OSHA help to make a change? OSHA inspectors will look into the devices hospitals are using to lift patients, and they’ll seek to determine whether major hospitals have sufficient supplies for moving and lifting patients. And if they do, are they properly training their nursing staff? The OSHA investigators will get answers to some of these questions by interviewing nurses and hospital managers, as well as through analysis of hospital documents. OSHA will also examine whether hospitals are keeping count of nursing injuries and taking steps to prevent them.

According to David Michaels, the OSHA Assistant Secretary for Labor, the agency has noted the seriousness of nursing injuries based on statistics, but its investigators haven’t examined some of the conditions firsthand. Now, Michaels explained, “it’s time for us to start doing some enforcement to make sure fewer workers are hurt.”

When OSHA inspectors start making hospital visits, they’ll be paying particular attention to ways in which facilities are preventing injuries caused by lifting patients. But they’ll also be examining hospitals’ injury- and illness-prevention methods for risks like tuberculosis or slip and fall accidents. Fines for violations will range anywhere between $7,000 and $70,000, “depending on the extent of the problem and the likelihood that hospital leaders knew about it and took no action.”

If you or someone you love recently suffered a workplace injury, it’s important to learn more about seeking financial compensation. Contact an aggressive San Diego personal injury lawyer today to discuss your case.

Photo Credit: phalinn via Compfight cc

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