According to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), hospital workers regularly face serious workplace hazards, including exposure to chemicals, hazardous drugs, and needle-sticks. Those workers often suffer musculoskeletal injuries that come from manually lifting and repositioning patients.
OSHA statistics indicate that U.S. hospitals recorded nearly 250,000 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2012, almost 58,000 of which resulted in absences, causing interruptions in patient care. Such injuries and work-related illnesses also contribute to overall higher costs for care in hospitals.
On January 15, 2014, to lower the cost associated with workplace injuries for hospital employees, OSHA issued a press release, announcing a new online resource for hospital and healthcare employers. The new website is meant to help prevent workplace injuries, and to enhance safe patient handling programs and procedures.
According to OSHA, the centerpiece of the website comprises “real life lessons” from high performing hospitals from around the country who have implemented “best practices” to reduce injuries and improve patient safety. The website contains specific and usable information to help prevent the most common type of injuries suffered by hospital workers.
The site includes accessible resources and products that include a self-assessment tool, a “busting the myths” page on patient handling procedures, and a “safe patient handling check list” that could easily be implemented in any hospital environment. OSHA’s new guidance products is meant to help hospitals develop and implement safe patient handling assessments, policies, procedures, programs, training, and patient education.
While the new website was developed for hospitals, the information applies generally to healthcare employers whose employees have hands-on responsibilities for patients, and therefore are exposed to the risks outlined and dealt with in the website materials. The fact that OSHA has issued recent guidance materials, and now this website on caregiver issues underscores the fact that healthcare worker safety continues to be a focus of OSHA and of the U.S. Department of Labor.