OSHA recently announced a campaign to raise awareness about the hazards likely to cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among health care workers responsible for patient care. Common MSDs suffered in the patient care industry include sprains, strains, soft tissue and back injuries. These injuries are due in large part to over exertion related to manual patient handling activities, often involving heavy lifting associated with transferring and repositioning patients and working in awkward positions.
“The best control for MSDs is an effective prevention program,” said MaryAnn Garrahan, OSHA’s Regional Administrator in Philadelphia. “[OSHA’s] goal is to assist nursing homes and long-term care facilities in promoting effective processes to prevent injuries.”
As part of the campaign, OSHA will provide 2,500 employers, unions and associations in the patient care industry in Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the District of Columbia with information about methods used to control hazards, such as lifting excessive weight during patient transfers and handling. OSHA will also provide information about how employers can include a zero-lift program, which minimizes direct patient lifting by using specialized lifting equipment and transfer tools. Here is a resource regarding Safe Patient Handling from OSHA's website.
Employers in the healthcare industries should be on high alert, because whenever OSHA provides information about hazards it believes are present, a focus on enforcement is soon to follow. This is particularly true when it comes to hazards for which OSHA has no specific standards or regulations, like ergonomics. In these circumstances, OSHA is limited in its enforcement to use of Sec. 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act – the General Duty Clause. The General Duty Clause is used by OSHA to issue citations in the absence of a specific standard, in situations where employers have not taken steps to address “recognized serious hazards.” Efforts like OSHA’s present campaign to advise healthcare employers about hazards in their workplaces, is OSHA’s way of making you “recognize” the hazard, so the Agency can more easily prove General Duty Clause violations.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons that healthcare employers should take note of the rate of MSD cases in patient care work.
The OSHA/Hyatt Hotels saga continued with a recent exchange of letters between OSHA and the hotel chain’s attorney. In April, OSHA issued a “5(a)(1) letter” to the CEO of Hyatt Hotels, indicating that OSHA believed there were ergonomic risks associated with the daily work activities of the company’s housekeeping staff. The letter put the hotel chain “on notice” that while OSHA did not believe that a “recognized hazard” existed at the time of the inspection, such that a General Duty Clause citation should issue, if the same hazard was later ...
Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) launched a new National Emphasis Program targeting Nursing Homes and Residential Care facilities (“Nursing Home NEP”). In an accompanying Press Release, OSHA announced that the Nursing Home NEP aims to protect workers from safety and health hazards “common in medical industries.” Effective upon its announcement and for a three-year period thereafter, the NEP focuses on ergonomic hazards (e.g., strains and sprains from patient ...
On March 20, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated an ALJ’s decision penalizing Caterpillar Logistics Services, Inc. for allegedly failing to record an employee’s "work-related" musculoskeletal disorder (“MSD”) on the Company’s OSHA 300 log. Caterpillar Logistics Services, Inc. v. Sec’y of Labor, No. 11-2958 (7th Cir., Mar. 20, 2012). This case is significant because it stamps back (at least temporarily) an effort by OSHA to expand the meaning of “work-related” in the context of ergonomic ...
As the clock winds down on 2011, a truly remarkable year of OSHA enforcement, it is time to think about 2012. Notwithstanding the fact that 2012 is an election year, and much of OSHA's rulemaking activities will be shelved until the day after the election, 2012 is likely to be another remarkable year in the OSHA universe, from significant enforcement initiatives to the completion of some major rules.
Below is a list of the 5 most important developments we expect to see out of the agency in the upcoming year:
- Nationwide Chemical Facilities ...
As we reported in our blog post in November of 2010, hotel housekeepers across the nation launched a concerted program of filing complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alleging a range of ergonomic and chemical exposure injuries sustained on the job. Government regulators and legislators are now taking action in response to these complaints. We have attached a series of articles discussing the nature of the complaints and the government’s response to them.
Last week, on November 9, 2010, housekeepers employed by Hyatt Hotels filed complaints with OSHA alleging injuries sustained on the job. The complaints were filed in eight cities across the country, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Long Beach, San Antonio, Honolulu and Indianapolis. Similar OSHA actions may occur in Boston, NYC, DC, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Miami, and Orlando with higher concentrations of hotel properties. This is the first time that employees of a single private employer have filed multi-city OSHA complaints, and ...
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