Report: Health care workers not being protected by OSHA

While we often think of construction workers and industrial workers as having inherently dangerous jobs, it’s actually health care workers who suffer the most work-related injuries and illnesses. In a new report released last week, the national advocacy group Public Citizen says even though this is true, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration does little to regulate safety in the health care industry.

Even though OSHA has a duty to protect all workers in the United States from dangerous conditions, a worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen and a co-author of the report says OSHA has “broken its promise to health care workers.” That’s because OSHA conducts few inspections and is slow to take action to get facilities to improve safety conditions, the report says.

In 2010, there were 653,900 workplace injuries and illnesses reported within the health care industry, which made it the most afflicted industry division. This was about 152,000 more injuries and illnesses than the manufacturing industry, which was the second most-afflicted industry division, the report indicated.

Additionally, workers in the health care industry suffer musculoskeletal injuries more frequently than workers in any other industry, the report said. These ailments, which are commonly back injuries, are believed to cost a total of $7 billion annually to treat.

The director of the American Nurses Association’s Department for Health, Safety and Wellness said many find it alarming that workers such as nurses, radiologists and physical therapists are suffering the same ailments as other workers with physically-intensive jobs such as laborers and truckers. The injuries are also one of the primary reasons health care professionals are forced to leave direct patient care, she said.

When workers are injured on the job, they are often left without income for months or even years. They may also suffer temporary or permanent disabilities. Luckily, these injured workers may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to help cover medical expenses, lost wages and other related costs. However, it’s imperative for injured workers to learn about all of their options and rights.

Source: Dallas News, “Health care employees suffer more on-the-job injuries and illnesses than other workers,” Sherry Jacobson, July 17, 2013