OSHA ruling makes healthcare worker injuries public

March 30, 2015

Sharps injuries are a relevant problem for healthcare workers across the world, with numerous efforts being made to try and improve training and create working environments where the risks are as low as possible. 

Under a new ruling from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), any injuries that occur in the workplace will be made public, which could substantially help the measures being taken to reduce the amount of staff suffering needlestick injuries.

This decision is set to be finalised towards the end of 2015, with OSHA expected to implement a ruling that would require employers in the healthcare industry to report any cases of occupational injuries and illnesses. The US-based body has said it will make this information public by using a website that will enable anyone to access it.

Current regulations ask that employers keep the same level of information but only internally. Under the new proposed rule, they will be forced to electronically transfer worker injury records to OSHA. The agency will then load into onto a database, enabling those with access to search for the number of injuries suffered at a workplace, the position of the affected person and the circumstances that surrounded their injury.

The notion has been supported by a number of worker-safety advocates, with them saying that public reporting could be a key factor when it comes to raising awareness about the risk of healthcare worker safety. However, some have opposed the proposed ruling, citing concerns about privacy.

OSHA's proposal, which was first introduced in 2013, will ensure that any organisation employing more than 250 employees will have to report any workplace-related injuries and illnesses quarterly, while businesses with 20 or more staff would report annually.

“We're very excited if OSHA can get that rule out and actually implement that,” said Mark Catlin, health and safety director for the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than a million healthcare professionals, including physicians and nurses.

“It would give everyone access to this kind of information and make these kinds of problems much more visible,” he said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 6.8 work-related injuries for every 100 employees in hospitals in 2011. Healthcare worker safety is a big issue, with hospitals accounting for more than 58,000 injuries in 2011 that required employees to take time away from work. 

Although sharps injuries are a major part of this, there are a number of other injuries that hospital are at risk of. Nearly half of all injuries reported were the result of lifting, bending or reaching.

This has a wider impact on the economy as a whole, as it is estimated that work-related injuries at hospitals result in an estimated $2 billion a year in workers' compensation claims. 

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