OSHA campaign protects healthcare workers


The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the hazards likely to cause musculoskeletal disorders among healthcare workers responsible for patient care. These disorders include sprains, strains, soft tissue and back injuries.

"The best control for MSDs is an effective prevention program," said MaryAnn Garrahan, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia. "Our goal is to assist nursing homes and long-term care facilities in promoting effective processes to prevent injuries."

As part of the campaign, OSHA is providing 2,500 employers, unions and associations in the healthcare industry in Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the District of Columbia with information about methods used to control hazards, such as lifting excessive weight during patient transfers and handling. OSHA is also providing information about how employers can include a zero-lift program, which minimizes direct patient lifting by using specialized lifting equipment and transfer tools.

In 2010, there were 40,030 occupational MSD cases in private industry nationwide where the source of injury or illness was a healthcare patient or resident of a healthcare facility. For MSD cases involving patient handling, 99 per cent were the result of overexertion, resulting in sprain, strain, or tear injuries.

Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants incurred occupational injuries or illnesses in 49 per cent of the MSD cases involving healthcare patients. Registered nurses accounted for 17 per cent, and home health aides for another six percent.

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