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OSHA Seeks to Avert Illness and Injury in Nursing and Residential Care Facilities

April 12, 2012

A new National Emphasis Program (NEP) for Nursing and Residential Care Facilities was released on April 5 by the U.S. Department of Labor‘s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in an effort to reduce occupational illnesses and injuries in these long-term care settings.

The NEP (pdf) provides guidance for a three-year effort to use OSHA outreach and inspections to reduce specific occupational hazards in nursing and residential care facilities.

In 2010, workers employed in these settings experienced “one of the highest rates of lost workdays due to injuries and illnesses of all major American industries,” a DOL press release states.

“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,” DOL explains.

Nearly two thirds of the cases (62.5 percent) that involved days away from work were attributed to injuries in two categories: 1) overexertion and 2) slips, trips, and falls.

DOL identified the following hazards associated with providing care in nursing and residential facilities:

  • exposure to blood and other potentially infectious material;
  • exposure to other communicable diseases such as tuberculosis;
  • ergonomic stressors related to lifting patients;
  • workplace violence;
  • slips, trips, and falls; and
  • exposure to hazardous chemicals and drugs.

“These are people who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are not well,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “It is not acceptable that they continue to get hurt at such high rates. Our new emphasis program for inspecting these facilities will strengthen protections for society’s caretakers.”

Nursing Aides Rank among the Highest for Job Injury and Illnesses

According to analysis by PHI of 2010 data on nursing aides from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities Program:

  • Nursing aides ranked second in the list of occupations with the highest numbers of injuries and illness (53,030), after hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers (65,040), and far ahead of police and sheriff’s patrol officers (29,150).
  • Nursing aides also had one of the highest incidence rates of work-related illness and injuries (489.4 per 10,000 workers), placing them third in the list of the top five. In 2010, they experienced injury at a rate four times that of all workers combined.
  • Nursing aides had the highest incidence rate for musculoskeletal disorders of all occupations (or ergonomic injuries) at 249.4 per 10,000 full-time, or more than seven times the national average (34.3 per 10,000).

Visit the OSHA website for more information, including guidance on nursing and residential care facility ergonomics and workplace violence.

— by Deane Beebe

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