How's moving patients risky? OHSA is counting the ways

Debbie Dawson Hatmaker
Debbie Dawson Hatmaker

A new key hazard list from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration highlights the injury risk healthcare workers face when handling patients.

The goal of the new list, released in an OSHA memorandum in June, is to reduce hazard exposure through “a combination of enforcement, compliance assistance and outreach.” In addition to musculoskeletal disorders resulting from patient handling, the updated hazards include workplace violence, bloodborne pathogens, and slips, trips and falls.

Inspection procedures, according to the new guidelines, include evaluating facilities for MSD risk factors, evaluating facilities' hazard management and employee training programs and ensuring that work-related disorders are identified early.

An estimated half of all injuries to nursing home workers involve preventable MSDs such as tendonitis, muscle strains and lower back injuries, often suffered as a result of lifting and transferring residents.

The American Nurses Association Executive Director Debbie Dawson Hatmaker commended OSHA for recognizing the injury risks faced by healthcare workers.

“While OSHA's action is a step in the right direction, ANA believes a federal ergonomic standard is necessary to protect healthcare workers,” Hatmaker wrote in a statement.