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OSHA enhances rules to protect health care workers

New Jersey residents employed in the health care industry may be interested to learn that a federal agency has adopted new regulations designed to make their workplaces safer. The new regulations, which took effect in June 2015, apply to inpatient treatment facilities and nursing homes.

The Occupational and Safety Health Administration is asking its inspectors to check on five major areas where workers might suffer on-the-job injuries: workplace violence, musculoskeletal disorders that might occur when lifting patients, blood-borne pathogens, slips and falls, and tuberculosis. Inspections will focus on facilities that have high rates of on-the-job injuries.

While conducting an inspection, OSHA inspectors will have authority to check for other areas that might lead to workers being injured. These hazards might include chemicals such as sanitizers and disinfectants as well as the presence of the deadly virus Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, in patients. Inspectors can cite facilities for violations under OSHA's general duty clause, which requires employers to provide safe working environments for their employees.

OSHA regulations are designed to protect workers. Unfortunately, workplace accidents can happen at any time or any place, even under conditions that are presumed to be safe. When New Jersey residents suffer workplace injuries, a workers' compensation program may be able to assist them while they recover from their injuries. Benefits may include payment of medical expenses and replacement wages if the person's injuries prevent them from working. Because workers' compensation claims can be denied, injured workers should carefully follow providers' instructions. If a claim is derailed, workers may want to contact an attorney who could assist in getting the claim back on track.

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