OSHA increases health care oversight

In June 2015, OSHA made it a priority to increase oversight of nursing homes and other health care facilities in Pennsylvania and nationwide. A guidance memo submitted by the federal agency required state and federal OSHA offices to find out the incidence of workplace-related injuries in health care and inpatient facilities. After collecting data, those with a high rate of workplace injuries or illnesses would be targeted for inspection.

The inspections are to focus on incidents of workplace violence, exposure to pathogens and slips, trips and falls. Inspectors are also to focus on musculoskeletal disorders related to improper handling of patients. While those were the key focus areas, inspectors are urged to expand the scope of an investigate if conditions warranted. Although there are no OSHA regulations regarding those specific workplace hazards, the agency is still able to take action under its general duty clause.

What this says is employers must provide a safe working environment for its workers. If there are existing regulations in place, they must be upgraded if they become insufficient to keep workers safe. To prepare for such an inspection, employers are encouraged to conduct an OSHA compliance audit. They may also want to consult with counsel prior to an inspection to gain a better understand of their rights and what they must allow their employees to do while it is ongoing.

Those who are injured or become ill at work may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Such benefits may include medical care as well as a percentage of wages lost due to an inability to return to work. The claim process is time-specific, and many injured workers obtain the assistance of an attorney to help ensure that all applicable documentation is included.