OSHA Opens Nursing Care NEP

Focused on specific hazards including workplace violence and ergonomics injuries, the three-year emphasis program may allay some of the concerns that OSHA is not sufficiently involved in health care industries.

OSHA has begun a National Emphasis Program for nursing and residential care facilities that is focused on blood exposures, ergonomics injuries related to lifting patients, communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, workplace violence, and slips and falls. Some organizations, notably the Service Employees International Union, have charged that OSHA does little enforcement or rulemaking related to health care industries, so this initiative may allay some of those concerns.

An NEP brings outreach and inspections to bear on specific hazards of an industry for a three-year period. OSHA said 2010 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed nursing and residential care facilities "experienced one of the highest rates of lost workdays due to injuries and illnesses of all major American industries. The incidence rate for cases involving days away from work in the nursing and residential care sector was 2.3 times higher than that of all private industry as a whole, despite the availability of feasible controls to address hazards," it said. "The data further indicate that an overwhelming proportion of the injuries within this sector were attributed to overexertion as well as to slips, trips and falls. Taken together, these two categories accounted for 62.5 percent of cases involving days away from work within this industry in 2010."

For this NEP, OSHA will target facilities with a days-away-from-work rate of 10 or higher per 100 full-time workers.

"These are people who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are not well. It is not acceptable that they 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."

The NEP directive can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_03-00-016.pdf. Information for employers and employees in these facilities is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/nursinghome/index.html.

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