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OSHA announces plan to address workplace injuries of nurses

Health care workers, especially nurses, in California and throughout the country will receive additional resources and support from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. To address workplace injuries in the health care industry, which experiences a higher rate of reported injuries than any other general industry in the United States, OSHA announced that it intends to expand its National Emphasis Program on Nursing and Residential Care Facilities.

Workers in hospitals and residential care facilities are at risk for a variety of musculoskeletal disorders that result from lifting patients, especially obese patients. Health care workers also experience exposure to hazardous materials and pathogens, such as tuberculosis and bloodborne diseases, in addition to workplace violence and slips, trips and falls.

National statistics report higher incidence rates of nonfatal injuries and illnesses in the health care industry than in other private industries. The injury rate in 2012 was 6.6 in hospitals and 7.6 in care facilities, compared to the private industry average of only 3.4 percent.

A contributing factor in on-the-job injury rates in hospitals and nursing facilities is lack of investment in assistive equipment like ceiling hoists and transfer slings designed to safely move patients, particularly overweight or obese patients. OSHA intends to focus on equipment needs as well as procedures for safely lifting and transferring patients. Additionally, OSHA will examine workplace systems for identifying hazards and for monitoring compliance with internal policies and procedures.

If a nurse suffers an injury at work, he or she likely is eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. Depending on the severity of the injury, they might require additional benefits, such as disability payments. Injured workers should consider seeking the counsel of an attorney to learn the options available, identify the employer's potential liability and decide upon what course of action to pursue.

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