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August 08, 2013
OSHA takes steps to protect healthcare workers

Lifting and transferring patients has long been a source of frequent and costly ailments among healthcare employees. On July 16, OSHA announced a new campaign to raise awareness about the hazards likely to cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in workers responsible for patient care.

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Keep reading for OSHA’s recommendations for ergonomics program elements.

As part of the ergonomics outreach initiative, OSHA is providing 2,500 employers, unions, and associations in Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia with information about how to control hazards. OSHA is also promoting the creation of zero-lift programs. These minimize direct patient lifting by using specialized equipment and transfer tools.

Help keep your employees safe from MSDs with Safety.BLR.com’s Healthcare Safety and Injury Prevention resource centers.

According to OSHA, there were 40,000 musculoskeletal cases nationwide in 2010 where the source of injury or illness was a patient or resident of a healthcare facility. In cases involving patient handling, 99 percent were the result of overexertion resulting in sprain, strain, or tearing.

The price of healthcare-related MSDs is extremely high. OSHA estimates direct and indirect costs associated with back injuries in health care at $20 billion annually. Also, employees undergoing pain and fatigue may be less productive, less attentive, more susceptible to further injury and more likely to affect the health and safety of others.

Does your ergonomic program have these elements?

In the absence of an ergonomics standard, OSHA recommends that employers identify and address ergonomic stressors in their safety and health plan. This guidance applies to nonhealthcare workplaces as well.

Areas to be addressed should include:

  • Management leadership/employee participation,
  • Workplace analysis,
  • Accident and record analysis,
  • Hazard prevention and control,
  • Medical management, and
  • Training.
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