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OSHA inspections add focus on nursing risks

June 29, 2015
by Megan Combs, Associate Editor
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it is adding five hazards to its list of inspections, including musculoskeletal disorders nurses may incur from handling residents. The other hazards include blood borne pathogens, workplace violence, tuberculosis and slips, trips and falls.

"The goal of this policy is to significantly reduce overexposures to these hazards through a combination of enforcement, compliance assistance, and outreach," said OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Dorothy Dougherty in a memorandum to regional administrators and state designees

The new OSHA memo said U.S. hospitals recorded nearly 58,000 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2013, which translates to about 6.4 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees. OSHA's Assistant Secretary David Michaels, MD, said the high number of injuries and illnesses was "simply not right."

"The most recent statistics tell us that almost half of all reported injuries in the health care industry were attributed to overexertion and related tasks," Michaels said in the OSHA release. "Nurses and nursing assistants each accounted for a substantial share of this total. There are feasible solutions for preventing these hazards and now is the time for employers to implement them." 

This isn't the first time nurse injuries have been the subject of expanded OSHA inspections. The same five hazards were placed on the inspection list in 2012, but expired in April 2015,  according to a release from Martindale-Hubbell. The current OSHA action has reinstated all five to the expanded inspection list.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) applauds OSHA's expansion of inspections. "ANA is hopeful that OSHA's enforcement memo will encourage hospitals to proactively address safe patient handling and mobility and create comprehensive programs to protect patients, nurses and other healthcare workers," ANA's Executive Director Debbie Dawson Hatmaker said in a statement

Read the full OSHA memo here.