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OSHA reveals stricter enforcement policy for health care workers

Health care professionals in Louisiana may be happy to learn that OSHA has revealed a stricter enforcement policy that promises to address the primary hazards that they face in their occupation. The new policy requires that federal inspections in hospitals, residential care facilities and nursing homes focus on a minimum of five main hazards no matter the initial purpose of the assessment.

The June policy is the second time within months that OSHA has told health care officials that it intends to increase enforcement; it revised workplace violence guidelines in April. The organization says that the changes are in response to health care having some of the highest illness and injury rates compared to other industries. In U.S. hospitals, for example, there are more than 57,000 cases related to workplace injuries and illnesses, which is nearly twice as many as in the private sector.

Under the new policy, OSHA will closely monitor health and safety compliance related to workplace violence, tuberculosis, safely handling patients, bloodborne pathogens and trips, slips and falls. The agency will also monitor exposure to hazardous substances such as anesthetic gases, drugs, sanitizers and disinfectants as well as exposure to drug-resistant organisms.

In regard to safely handling patients, the policy gives detailed guidance on the lifting and ergonomics requirements. The agency will assess whether the injury prevention program for ergonomics at a facility is sufficient and will be more attentive to when caregivers perform manual lifting. It will also examine the repositioning and lifting equipment available to reduce the risk of injury and assess whether workers have a way to raise questions about manual lifting and get help with lifting patients.

Health care workers who become injured or ill on the job may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. These benefits could include the payment of medical expenses as well as a portion of any wages that were lost when unable to work. Such workers may want to avail themselves of the assistance of an attorney when preparing and filing the required claim.

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