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Hospitals need to do more to safeguard against occupational injuries

July 29, 2015

A report from Public Citizen has claimed that many hospitals are not doing enough to minimise the risk of healthcare workers being injured on the job. It claims that bosses have no plan of action to reduce rate of on-the-job nurse injuries.

This is despite the fact that nurses sustain more occupational injuries than any other industry. The report states that the healthcare industry often opposes protective regulatory measures but fail to offer more suitable alternative remedies.

Research conducted by the firm has found that musculoskeletal injuries, which are some of the most common injuries sustained by healthcare workers, can end careers. Safe patient handling practices have been shown to reduce injuries and save health care providers money.

“It is a cruel irony that an industry devoted to health shows such disregard for the health of its own employees,” said Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and author of the report. “Ultimately, the health care industry bears responsibility for this problem. In the meantime, legislators and regulators should exercise the full extent of their public protection mandate to help healthcare executives see the light.”

For its 'Little Support From Above' report, Public Citizen canvassed the opinion of several leading health care trade associations about how they feel employee injuries from patient handling could be addressed and claims that none offered "a meaningful response".

In its report announcement, the firm cited US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administrator David Michaels who has called for better laws to protect healthcare workers.

He sent a letter to hospital administrators saying that hospitals are among “the most hazardous places to work in America”. In addition, he encouraged them to take voluntary steps to better protect their workers. 

"Many of the injuries suffered by healthcare workers are musculoskeletal disorders, which result from moving or repositioning patients without adequate assistive technology," the group said in the report announcement. "As Public Citizen's research has demonstrated, these injuries can be career-ending events for many nurses. But safe patient handling practices have been shown to reduce injuries and save healthcare providers money."

Last month, OSHA issued a memo listing musculoskeletal disorders from manual patient handling as a new point of emphasis for occupational safety inspectors.

The American Nurses Association, which represents registered nurses, has issued a blanket policy statement, in which it says it supports “actions and policies that result in the elimination of manual patient handling”. 

It also endorsed recent legislation introduced in Congress to require technology to help caregivers moving patients. 

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