On April 5, 2012, OSHA announced its new national emphasis program targeting nursing home and residential care facilities. This program is similar to the program OSHA embarked on in 2003-2004. However, the new program will also focus on workplace violence. The program is designed to address the protection of workers from serious safety and health hazards that are common in medical industries. National emphasis programs target specific hazards in an industry for a three-year period. This program will target nursing homes and residential care facilities in an effort to reduce occupational illnesses and injuries.
According to OSHA, in 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nursing and residential care facilities experienced one of the highest rates of lost workdays due to injuries and illnesses of all major American industries. The incidence rate for cases involving days away from work in the nursing and residential care sector was 2.3 times higher than that of all private industry as a whole, despite the availability of feasible controls to address hazards. The data further indicate that an overwhelming proportion of the injuries within this sector were attributed to overexertion as well as to slips, trips and falls. Taken together, these two categories accounted for 62.5 percent of cases involving days away from work within this industry in 2010.
As a result, OSHA intends to target facilities with a days-away-from-work rate of 10 or higher per 100 full-time workers. Facilities should be reviewing their illness and injury statistics to see if they will qualify as a target for the program. Facilities that are possible targets should take some time to review their OSHA compliance efforts and put in place measures to address any area that needs improvement and that can help reduce overall worker safety and exposure.
According to OSHA, health care workers face numerous serious safety and health hazards, and the program will provide guidance to OSHA compliance staff on the policies and procedures for targeting and conducting inspections specifically focused on the hazards associated with nursing and residential care. These hazards include exposure to blood and other potentially infectious material; exposure to other communicable diseases such as tuberculosis; ergonomic stressors related to lifting patients; workplace violence; and slips, trips and falls. Workers also may be exposed to hazardous chemicals and drugs.
Many facilities faced fines and other OSHA related enforcement in the last program designed to target this industry sector. Getting ahead of the program and focusing in on OSHA compliance for those facilities that may be a target is an important step to reducing the possibility of enforcement action and improving worker safety overall.
For further information, you can find the OSHA program directive here —> CPL 03-00-016