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Nursing and inpatient facilities from an OSHA perspective

 Posted on November 03,2015 in Workplace Accidents

Workplace accidents may not be the greatest public concern of California residents with regard to nursing care facilities, but worker safety and welfare is just as important as the well-being of the patients. OSHA announced its intention to more carefully monitor inpatient settings for worker safety concerns, especially in cases of facilities with high levels of reported accidents and employee illnesses related to work conditions.

Although health care injuries and illnesses might not seem as severe as issues like construction accidents, workers can face serious hazards in their handling of patients, medications and biomaterials. Moving patients can result in musculoskeletal injuries. Bloodborne pathogens, diseases such as tuberculosis, and germs like MRSA can also affect the health of workers. Workplace violence is a serious concern in these environments, while slips, trips and falls are common because of various activities in nursing homes. Hospital workers face similar hazards, which is why these areas are of particular concern to OSHA. A general duty provision addresses hazards that may not be clearly identified.

As OSHA intensifies its vigilance over inpatient facilities, it has also become more observant of similar issues in ambulatory health care facilities. The fines being assessed in some cases are more reflective of those normally levied against companies that have experienced fatality incidents. As this increased oversight plays out in the state and throughout the country, workers may find that employers become more receptive to complaints about safety violations.

Although a work-related accident may be easy to report as an employee goes through the workers' compensation process, a work-related illness contracted by a health care worker in an inpatient facility could be much more difficult to prove. Workers who are concerned about risky conditions may find that keeping a journal of conditions and symptoms is helpful for documenting the workplace connection. Legal assistance may also be helpful in filing for workers' compensation benefits in such a scenario.

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