As workers’ injury and illness rates soar, US Department of Labor urges healthcare facilities, providers to employ effective safety, health programs
ONAGA, KS ‒ Amid the pandemic, U.S. healthcare workers experienced a staggering 249 percent increase in injury and illness rates in 2020 while serving those in need. In fact, workers in the healthcare and social assistance industries combined, suffered more injuries and illnesses than workers in any industry in the nation.
As the nation prepares to observe National Caregivers Day on Feb. 18, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration calls on healthcare employers, and those in related industries, to take immediate actions to help make 2022 less hazardous and reduce worker injuries and illnesses.
“Healthcare workers routinely face the risks associated with exposures to bloodborne pathogens, drug residue, X-ray machines, respiratory illness and ergonomic injuries related to lifting patients and repetitive tasks,” said OSHA’s acting Regional Administrator Ryan Hodge in Kansas City, Missouri. “Our nation’s caregivers have made extraordinary sacrifices in recent years – putting themselves on the frontline in a pandemic – and we owe it to them to ensure their employers are doing all they can to protect their employees.”
An effective way to combat workplace injury and illness is to create and use a proactive safety and health program to address hazards and endorse training and preventive measures to keep workers safe.
To understand how effective a program of this kind can be, consider how Community Hospital Onaga – part of Community HealthCare System Inc.’s nonprofit healthcare system – succeeded in improving the safety and health of its workers. In 2000, the hospital in rural northeast Kansas contacted OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program about enhancing workplace safety. Visits by the Kansas Department of Labor’s On-Site Consultation program soon began.
Following those visits, Community Hospital succeeded in correcting all hazards inspectors identified, and it continued to improve its safety and health programs. By December 2002, OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program awarded the facility “SHARP” status, one of only two Kansas hospitals in the program. The facility has kept injury-and-illness rates below the industry average since 2002. As a result, OSHA has renewed Community Hospital’s SHARP status eight times, most recently in June 2021.
“Participating in OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program helps companies anticipate hazards and take initiative,” Hodge added. “As COVID-19 spread, Community HealthCare System implemented a plan to protect employees and clients. Other healthcare systems can follow their model by encouraging a mindset that anticipates and addresses hazards before they cause harm.”
Learn more about OSHA’s SHARP program. Companies interested in the program should contact their local OSHA On-Site Consultation program to discuss details and schedule an on-site safety and health evaluation. Find the On-Site Consultation program nearest you by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or visiting OSHA’s program website.