As I began preparing this article, I knew I would need to reestablish some ground rules that we have agreed to in previous writings: (1) I am a safety professional and a healthcare risk manager. You will not always like what I have to say. (2) My job is to help you keep your employees safe and secure in the workplace. In doing so, I will not always say what you want to hear and (3) I do not set the rules; I only share them with you. Do not kill the messenger!
In a June 25, 2015 memorandum, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) said what those of us in healthcare safety and risk management have known for years: musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) resulting from lifting- and transferring-related injuries are reaching epidemic proportions in healthcare. And now, as we expected, OSHA is coming after us as an industry.
When OSHA introduced the National Emphasis Program for Long Term Care in 2012, it sent a strong and powerful message that the frequency and severity of occupational injuries to long-term care (LTC) workers was unacceptably high and that these numbers needed to be reduced, or OSHA would do it for us. OSHA went to great extremes to train Compliance Safety and Health Officers in assessing LTC facilities, teaching them how to assess these facilities for specific target hazards.
Now, OSHA is expanding its efforts. As it begins to focus more directly on MSDs, it is also expanding its range to include all categories of inpatient facilities, including hospitals, nursing and residential facilities. In a nutshell, it appears that independent living facilities, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities and hospitals are all in the crosshairs.
So how do we prepare? One of the first steps to compliance is to develop a comprehensive Safe Patient/Safe Resident Handling Plan that provides the following: