OSHA doubles down on efforts to curb nurse injuries

Amid recent reports that chronicled the high rates of workplace injuries among nurses, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to ramp up its regulatory efforts in the healthcare industry, Healthcare Finance News reports.

In a memo sent to state and regional OSHA staff, Enforcement Director Thomas Galassi wrote that the agency will extend its National Emphasis Program on Nursing and Residential Care Facilities to try to reduce occupational hazards for clinicians, according to the article. The memo follows an Occupational Health Safety Network report in April that found workplace injuries--in particular those associated with violence against workers--were on the rise in healthcare.

Workplace violence is enough of a pressing concern that OSHA updated its guidance on the subject in April, noting that workers in healthcare sectors are about four times more likely than the average private sector employee to suffer violence-related injuries, FierceHealthcare has reported. Last August, the agency levied a $78,000 fine against Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, for not adequately protecting its employees from a spate of violent incidents.

For all types of workplace injuries, nursing assistants are at greater risk than any other profession, including construction workers, correctional offers and police officers, according to a National Public Radio report, and many hospitals' safety initiatives fall woefully short. And a series of court rulings has hamstrung OSHA's efforts to reduce workplace injuries in healthcare, NPR reported.

Now it appears OSHA wants to double down, as Galassi wrote that the agency plans to "allocate enforcement and other resources to additional inpatient healthcare facilities, such as nursing homes and hospitals that have occupational illness and injury rates above the industry average," according to Healthcare Finance News.

In particular, OSHA will focus on the risk of musculoskeletal disorders that stem from lifting patients, a major focus of the recent NPR reports, which cited experts that say there is no safe way for workers to manually lift patients. Thus, OSHA plans to evaluate whether healthcare facilities have "an adequate quantity and variety" of equipment used to lift patients--though there is not yet a government mandate for such equipment, the article notes. Even so, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently greatly reduced injuries in its healthcare facilities after it spent more than $200 million on a "safe patient handling program."

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