Hospitals an Area of Concern for OSHA

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched a web page devoted to hospital worker safety.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, U.S. hospitals recorded 250,000 work-related injuries and illnesses, almost 60,000 of them causing employees to miss work. These statistics, according to OSHA, make hospitals one of the most hazardous places to work, even more dangerous for employees than working in construction or manufacturing.

The purpose of the new web page is to provide resources to “help hospitals prevent worker injuries, assess workplace safety needs, enhance safe patient handling programs, and implement safety and health management systems.”  The resources provided are related to three key areas: understanding the problem; solutions for safety and health management systems; and solutions for safe patient handling.

In the “understanding the problem” section of the webpage, OSHA provides a four-page booklet containing a concise summary of injury and illness rates, the major causes of injuries, costs to hospitals as a result of workplace injuries and illnesses, and possible solutions.  OSHA also provides a comprehensive booklet with more detailed data on how hospital workers are getting hurt, which occupations are the riskiest, and how recordkeeping could be helpful in identifying problems and solutions.  A three-page safety self-assessment is also available.

In the safety and health management systems solutions section, OSHA provides real world examples from hospital administrators who demonstrate the value of addressing workplace safety, a guidebook with implementation strategies and best practices, and a self-assessment tool to help safety managers determine how many recommended safety measures are already in place at their worksites.  OSHA also provides a comparison of core elements between a safety and health management system and Joint Commission hospital accreditation standards.

OSHA provides the most resources in the section addressing safe patient handling.  Resources include a poster designed for patients and their families, a Safe Patient Handling Program checklist, a self-assessment for administrators to use in evaluating their hospital’s current safe patient handling program, and other tools and resources.  OSHA lays out the financial benefits of implementing and sustaining a safe patient handling program for administrators and provides a list of common myths, barriers, and concerns about safe patient handling and the facts to disprove them.

The short takeaway is that if you are in the healthcare industry, this new page is certainly worth a look, as it highlights the issues with which OSHA is most concerned in the hospital setting. 

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.