OSHA to crack down on hospitals that don't protect nurses from injury

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has announced a new initiative to drastically increase scrutiny of injuries among hospital nursing staff.

Earlier in the month, OSHA announced plans to step up regulation of occupational risks in healthcare settings in the wake of an April report that found a sharp uptick in healthcare workplace injuries. Under the initiative, OSHA inspectors will monitor and investigate steps hospitals take to avoid injuries to nurses during patient lifting. The agency has issued numerous recommendations to prevent such injuries, but the new program will potentially fine noncompliant healthcare providers, according to National Public Radio.

Hospitals have acknowledged the threat of injuries while lifting patients and encouraged "body mechanics" strategies, such as straight-backed, knees-bent lifting. However, research indicates these methods are not enough to prevent injuries, and the only proven method thus far is using special equipment to lift patients.

"We've seen from the statistics how bad the problems are, but we haven't been to that many hospitals--and the NPR stories [about lifting injuries] helped motivate us to say, 'What can we do?'" OSHA Assistant Secretary for Labor David Michaels told NPR. "It's time for us to start doing some enforcement to make sure fewer workers are hurt."

Under the new initiative, OSHA inspectors will interview nurses and managers and analyze hospital documents to determine what devices hospitals use to lift patients, whether they have adequate supplies and training, and how well the hospital tracks and addresses nursing injuries.

Michaels expressed hopes hospitals will self-correct before the inspection process begins. The agency will also investigate hospital safeguards against risks such as tuberculosis, slips and falls, as well as violent patients. Penalties will likely range from $7,000 to $70,000, depending on the extent of the problem and the likelihood that hospital leaders knew about it and took no action.

To learn more:
- read OSHA's guidelines
- here's the NPR article