OSHA to scrutinize safety for health care workers

Pennsylvania health care workers may soon benefit from efforts by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate safe working conditions for nurses at residential care facilities and hospitals. For years, health care workers have suffered unusually high injury rates due to the challenges involved in lifting patients and the reluctance of health care facilities to invest in lifts and other equipment. The probe will focus on the musculoskeletal injuries that are common as well as falls and exposure to pathogens and other hazards.

OSHA plans to dispatch its resources to health care facilities with injuries above the national average. Overall, health care workers have higher injury rates than those in the construction or oil and gas industries. One CDC researcher pointed out that in some industries such as auto manufacturing, workers are prohibited from lifting weights above 35 pounds. On the other hand, nurses are dealing with patients who often weigh 300 pounds or more. The Veterans Health Administration found that the right equipment could reduce injuries by as much as 40 percent.

OSHA will look at whether workplaces have lifting equipment available and functional for nurses. It will also look at how the workplace identifies hazards and tracks compliance.

A nurse who is injured on the job may be eligible for workers' compensation. However, the injured victim may be concerned that applying for benefits might result in retaliation at work. This retaliation is illegal, and those who face it may wish to consult with an attorney. Legal counsel could also be helpful in filing a claim and in the event that it is necessary to make an appeal should the claim be denied or disputed.

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