By Robert G. Chadwick, Jr., Partner, Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare industry continues to rank amongst the most dangerous industries based upon the number of work-related injuries and illnesses suffered by its workers. In 2013, U.S. hospitals recorded 57,680 work-related injuries and illnesses, a total of 6.4 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees, almost twice as high as the rate for the private industry as a whole (3.3 per 100 full-time employees for all U.S. industries).
With these statistics, it was only a matter of time before OSHA took steps to make the healthcare industry an inspection priority. The first step in this process occurred on June 25, 2015 when the agency published a Memorandum setting forth guidance for Compliance Safety & Health Officers in inspecting inpatient healthcare settings, such as hospitals and nursing and residential care facilities. The focus of the Memorandum includes (1) risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders associated with patient/resident handling, (2) workplace violence, (3) tuberculosis, (4) blood-borne pathogens, (5) slips, trips and falls, (6) Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs), and (7) hazard communication programs regarding hazardous chemicals such as sanitizers, disinfectants, anesthetic gases, and hazardous drugs.
It is anticipated that the next step for OSHA will be an increase in the number of inspections of hospitals and nursing and residential care facilities. During the time period from October 2013 through September 2014, the OSHA standards governing blood-borne pathogens ranked the highest by far in the number of citations issued to hospitals. A total of 110 citations were issued for violations of these standards with fines totaling $333,568.00. It is safe to say, therefore, that the financial stakes for hospitals of OSHA’s new inspection priorities are significant and will most likely involve blood-borne pathogen protocols.
OSHA Inspection Guidance for Inpatient Healthcare Settings: https://www.osha.gov/dep/enforcement/inpatient_insp_06252015.html