In New Jersey and across the country, workplace injury rates are higher in health care than in any other industry, even higher than industries such as oil and gas extraction and construction. OSHA is attempting to reverse this trend by investigating, auditing and fining hospitals and other facilities for workplace safety violations.
The OSHA initiative is specifically directed at injuries to nurses. Nurses are exposed to many hazards on the job, including injuries from lifting patients, exposure to TB, workplace violence, and slips and falls. OSHA intends to devote additional resources to hospitals and nursing homes with occupational injury rates above the national average.
Increased media coverage of the issue of workplace injuries to nurses has highlighted a particular concern with the increase in obese Americans in hospitals and nursing facilities. According to reports, hospitals have not invested in equipment that is necessary to transfer obese patients safely. A CDC researcher pointed out that automobile manufacturing employees, a largely male workforce, are prohibited by OSHA regulations from lifting more than 35 pounds at work while the mostly-female nursing workforce is required to move patients weighing several times that. The VA reported a reduction of 40 percent in nursing injuries relating to transferring patients after installation of specialized lifting devices.
OSHA’s increased oversight may improve working conditions for nurses; however, improvements will not happen in every facility overnight. An individual, particularly a nurse, who has been injured on the job, may consider consulting an attorney with experience in workers’ compensation cases. The attorney may be able to investigate the case, determine whether a lack of appropriate assistive equipment contributed to the injury and obtain a financial settlement for the injured worker.