Nursing homes that are unionized are more likely to report workplace injury and illness information, according to a new study.

Adam Dean, PhD, a professor of political science at the George Washington University, said nursing homes are some of the most dangerous workplaces in the US. Of them, 40% comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements to report sickness and injuries that happen. The research was published Sept. 5 in Health Affairs

Dean’s team looked at data from 15,921 nursing home unions spanning 48 states from 2016 until 2021. The team evaluated how nursing home communities complied with OSHA rules instead of workplace injury rates. Two years after being part of a union, nursing homes were 31.1% more likely to report required data to OSHA compared to non-union nursing homes. There’s a 78% increase in compliance compared to the average compliance rate among all the nursing homes over the duration of the study.

“Unionization led to a 78% increase in employer compliance with OSHA’s requirement to report workplace injury and illness data,” Dean said. “Reporting such information helps make nursing homes safer.”

In 2016, OSHA required employers to share data with the agency. That information is then posted on a website for the public. But without the data, public health officials and policymakers can’t do much to prevent illness and injury.

Past research has demonstrated that unions help to improve workplace safety through monitoring and education. 

The news comes as the Biden Administration proposes nursing home staffing mandates. The AFL-CIO and SEIU, two unions that represent nursing home workers, applauded the move. Many providers see it a different way. “There are simply no people to hire — especially nurses,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit nursing homes and other aging services providers, said. “It’s meaningless to mandate staffing levels that cannot be met.”