A federal agency launched a new online resource to help hospital leaders protect their employees from getting hurt when lifting patients, handling combative patients, during exposure to chemicals and other common hazards of working in healthcare.
Advocacy groups are praising the initiative but argue the risks warrant rules and enforcement in addition to guidelines.
“Successful strategies to improve patient safety and worker safety go hand in hand,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, during a news conference announcing the new site, osha.gov/hospitals
. The site contains fact books, self assessments and best practices to guide hospital managers.
The initiative does not include any new requirements for hospitals, but Michaels said that improving safety requires a transformation of the workplace culture in the industry.
“We urge all hospital executives that are ready to protect workers, enhance patient safety
and save money to go to our website, take the self assessment … (and) compare your hospital with benchmarks from high-performing hospitals.” Michaels said.
OSHA says of the 250,000 work-related injuries and illnesses reported in U.S. hospitals in 2012, almost 60,000 resulted in employees missing work, costing hospitals $2 billion in nationwide workers' compensation losses.
Representatives from the Lucian Leape Institute, the National Patient Safety Foundation and the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare
participated in the announcement.
Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization, issued a statement applauding the creation of the site. Their group released a report in 2013, called Health Care Workers Unprotected
, finding healthcare workers suffer more injuries than those in any other industry. Employers across all healthcare settings reported nearly 654,000 workplace injuries and illnesses in 2010, about 23% more than the next most injury-prone sector, manufacturing.
Still, Public Citizen said, “the agency needs to take further steps, including requiring such programs in a rule and initiating a rulemaking to set a safe patient-handling standard.” Follow Sabriya Rice on Twitter: @MHSRice