Worker Safety at Extended Care Facilities

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Worker Safety at Extended Care Facilities

Unacceptable, says Labor Department

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has just announced a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) for nursing and residential care facilities to help protect workers from safety and health hazards common in the medical industry. Each NEP involves a three-year period of intensified safety outreach and inspections.

Lost Work Days

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, extended care facilities experienced one of the highest rates of lost workdays due to injuries and illness of any major American industry. The rate was 2.3 times higher than the collective average for private industry. Most of the injuries were due to overexertion or slips, falls and trips: Together, these categories accounted for 62.5 percent of extended care facility workers’ lost workdays. Of course, healthcare workers also face other hazards, such as exposure to infectious material and blood-borne pathogens, diseases like tuberculosis, ergonomic stressors related to lifting patients, workplace violence and exposure to dangerous drugs and chemicals, including disinfectants and sanitizers.

OSHA Steps In

Any facility averaging more than 10 days away from work per 100 workers will be targeted under the NEP. OSHA anticipates over 700 facilities will be inspected over the three years.

“These are people who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are not well. It is not acceptable that [these workers] continue to get hurt at such high rates,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Our new emphasis program for inspecting these facilities will strengthen protections for society’s caretakers.”

You can find a copy of the NEP directive by clicking here.

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