Report: OSHA not doing enough to prevent healthcare worker injuries

Nurse Leader Insider, July 18, 2013

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Just weeks after the American Nurses Association (ANA) released new guidance on safe patient handling, Public Citizen has issued the “Health Care Workers Unprotected” report, which the ANA says should be a “clarion call” for improving the culture of safety in healthcare.

According to the new Public Citizen report, healthcare workers suffer more injuries and illnesses on the job each year than those in any other industry. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducts relatively few inspections of healthcare facilities and isn’t taking strong enough action to resolve unsafe conditions, the report says. It also notes an absence of needed safety standards.

The report says that nurses, nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants suffer more musculoskeletal injuries than workers in any other field. Costs associated with back injuries in the healthcare industry are estimated to be more than $7 billion annually.

Additionally, in 2010, healthcare employers reported 653,900 workplace injuries and illnesses, about 152,000 more than the next most afflicted industry sector, manufacturing. The construction industry is the subject of the most inspections. Although healthcare workers outnumber construction workers more than two-to-one, OSHA conducts just one-twentieth as many inspections of health care facilities as construction sites.

More people seem to be answering that clarion call for action: Earlier this month, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) sponsored the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 2480), which aims to protect registered nurses and other healthcare workers from injuries and musculoskeletal disorders caused by manual patient handling.

“A comprehensive safe patient handling and mobility program makes sense in both human and financial terms,” said an ANA statement. “Our top obligation is to protect the health and safety of workers and patients. Now is the time for solutions, not excuses.”

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