Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has committed the agency to improving safety and health in the nation’s nursing homes. Recent data released by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics indicate that incidences of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses that resulted in leave time increased by 6 percent in 2010.
At a rate of 283 cases per 10,000 full-time employees, the occurrence of these incidences are 2.5 times more likely to occur in nursing homes than in all private and public sector jobs. The rate among nurse’s aides, orderlies, and attendants jumped by 7 percent; equivalent to 489 incidences per 10,000 full-time workers. Cases of musculoskeletal disorders requiring leave time for nursing aids, orderlies, and attendants also increased by 10 percent; equivalent to a rate of 249 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.
Directly responding to the findings, Dr. Michaels stated: “It is unacceptable that the workers who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are sick are the very same workers who face the highest risk of work-related injury and illness. These injuries can end up destroying a family’s emotional and financial security. While workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities take an enormous toll on this nation’s economy – the toll on injured workers and their families is intolerable.
“The rates of injuries and illnesses among hospital and health care workers underscore OSHA’s concern about the safety and health of these workers. OSHA is responding by launching, in the next few months, a National Emphasis Program on Nursing Home and Residential Care Facilities. Through this initiative, we will increase our inspections of these facilities, focusing on back injuries from resident handling or lifting patients; exposure to blood-borne pathogens and other infectious diseases; workplace violence; and slips, trips and falls.”