OSHA Urges Employers to Address Healthcare Injuries, Illnesses

One of the benefits of the number of Americans working from home has been a decrease in injuries in many professions. Overall, employers in the private industry sector reported 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020, down from 2.8 million in 2019, a decrease of 5.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the good news. The bad news is that worker injuries and illnesses in healthcare have spiked dramatically.

Among nurses and nursing assistants, the rise in workplace injuries is alarming. The BLS reported that 10 occupations accounted for 38.3 percent of all private industry cases involving days away from work (DAFW) in 2020. Total injury and illness cases decreased or remained the same in all private industry sectors, except for health care and social assistance, which increased 40.1 percent in 2020.

Of these, nursing assistants had the highest number of DAFW cases with 96,480, an increase of 68,890 cases (249.7 percent) from 2019. In 2020, DAFW cases for registered nurses increased by 58,590 cases (290.8 percent) to 78,740 cases. The reasons behind this increase include the global COVID-19 pandemic coupled with demographic changes as the large Baby Boomer generation ages. Additionally, many healthcare providers have reported violent incidents with patients and visitors, often over disputes about mask mandates and other health precautions.

Due to the increase in negative health events among nurses, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has urged healthcare employers to address the root causes of the spike.

“Healthcare workers routinely face the risks associated with exposures to bloodborne pathogens, drug residue, X-ray machines, respiratory illness, and ergonomic injuries related to lifting patients and repetitive tasks,” Ryan Hodge, OSHA’s acting Kansas City, Missouri, regional administrator, said in an agency statement. “Our nation’s caregivers have made extraordinary sacrifices in recent years — putting themselves on the frontline in a pandemic — and we owe it to them to ensure their employers are doing all they can to protect their employees.”

In late December, OSHA withdrew the expired portions of its June 21 COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) for healthcare facilities and healthcare support services. Since then, however, OSHA has announced plans to move forward with rulemakings for infectious disease hazards in health care and related industries, including COVID-19, and workplace violence in health care and social services, according to the Department of Labor’s fall 2021 semiannual regulatory agenda, published January 31.

To comply with the complex regulations, employers are encouraged to consult with a knowledgeable agency that can help guide them through the recommended steps to reduce workplace injuries.

Unishield has been providing businesses throughout Southern California with the highest quality training and compliance solutions for employers as well as a library of videotapes and related training manuals. In addition, Unishield offers first aid kits and medical supplies, first aid restocking services, industrial safety equipment, and portable emergency medical equipment such as the lifesaving AED (automatic external defibrillator). Call 800-480-5855.

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