Health care workers suffer more injuries and illnesses on the job each year than workers in other industries, but OSHA conducts relatively few inspections of health care facilities and is hamstrung in its ability to take action to resolve unsafe conditions by an absence of needed safety standards, according to a new report from Public Citizen.
“OSHA is required by law to ensure safe conditions for every employee in the United States,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen, and a co-author of the report, “Health Care Workers Unprotected.” “The record is clear that the government has broken its promise to health care workers.”
Nurses, nursing aides, orderlies and attendants suffer more musculoskeletal injuries than workers in any other field. Costs associated with back injuries in the health care industry are estimated to be more than $7 billion annually.
“Most Americans are not aware that hospitals and other medical facilities are actually the most frequent site for workplace injuries,” said Dr. L. Toni Lewis, chair of the health care division of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which advised Public Citizen on the report. “This is an issue that affects so many frontline workers and their patients – nurses, CNAs, radiologists, physical therapists – women and men who are trying to meet the needs of their patients safely and effectively. The current patchwork approach is not working for workers.”
Health Care Workers Suffer Most Injuries, Have Few Federal Protections