by Steven Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare | March 7, 2015
Operating room nurse Bernadette Haskins, who weighs 125 pounds, says lifting immobile patients who are sometimes nearly three times her size makes the risk of injury a constant worry for her and her colleagues.
“I love what I do, but the average weight of patients we take care of is about 300 pounds, and sometimes there’s no extra help available,” said Haskins, who works at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. She said she’s one of the few nurses there who have not had to take time off because of an occupational injury. The safety protocols Swedish has adopted for handling patients aren’t always followed, she said.
Later this year, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is scheduled to finalize a rule requiring healthcare employers and those in other industries to report cases of occupational injuries and illnesses. OSHA has said it will make the data public through a website that will allow anyone to search employers’ injury and illness reports.
Currently, employers are required to keep internal paper records of injuries and illnesses that occur at their workplace, but the information is not made publicly available.
Under the proposed rule, employers would electronically transfer worker injury records to OSHA. The agency then would make it possible for the public to search how many injuries and illnesses occurred at a each workplace, the title of the affected employee, and the circumstances related to each incident.
Worker-safety advocates and union officials say such public reporting could play a key role in raising the visibility of the worker safety issue for front-line healthcare staffers.
But critics, led by long-term-care providers, have expressed concern that public reporting could jeopardize patient privacy.
Under an OSHA rule to be finalized this year, the public will be able to see how many injuries and illnesses occurred at healthcare facilities and other workplaces.
Introduced in 2013, OSHA’s Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule would require employers with 250 or more employees to report workplace-related injuries and illnesses quarterly, while businesses with 20 or more employees would report annually.
“We’re very excited if OSHA can get that rule out and actually implement that,” said Mark Catlin, health and safety director for the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 1 million healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, lab technicians, and nursing home and home care workers.
“It would give everyone access to this kind of information and make these kinds of problems much more visible,” he said.
But the American Healthcare Association, which represents long-term-care and post-acute-care providers, expressed concern that the rule could expose sensitive patient information.
“AHCA members are particularly concerned that whether intentionally or unintentionally, a resident’s privacy may also be compromised with the release of injury and illness data,” the group said in its comments to OSHA on the rule.
Neither the American Hospital Association nor the Federation of American Hospitals offered comment on the rule for this article.
In 2011, hospitals had 6.8 work-related injuries for every 100 employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That rate was nearly double the national average among private industries for that year. Hospitals accounted for more than 58,000 injuries in 2011 that required employees to take time away from work. Nearly half of all injuries were caused by lifting, bending, or reaching—actions most often associated with moving or lifting patients, according to the BLS. Work-related injuries at hospitals result in an estimated $2 billion a year in workers’ compensation claims.
Nearly half of all hospital staff injuries are caused by lifting, bending, or reaching.
Musculoskeletal injuries among nursing staff related to handling patients have become more common as the number of overweight Americans has increased.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think the musculoskeletal-injury situation has captured the attention of the public, the scientists and the policymakers,” said Pamela Cipriano, president of the American Nurses Association.
The greater transparency emerging from the new rule, she said, will “raise the dialogue and the level of importance and attention.”
This article was originally published by Modern Healthcare. You can see the original article here: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150307/MAGAZINE/303079965/hospital-staff-injuries-will-go-public-with-osha-rule/?C=50171&P=13614292&T=1&S=14896&D=1