OSHA will inspect nursing homes with unusual rates

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says it soon will begin targeted inspections of nursing and personal care facilities experiencing injury and illness rates higher than the industry average.

OSHA will first target 1,000 facilities that have 14 or more injuries or illnesses resulting in lost workdays for every 100 full-time employees. Then inspectors will move on to facilities with eight or more lost workdays. The nursing home industry has an injury and illness rate more than 2.5 times higher than that of general industry. In 2000, the last year for which data are available, there were almost 75,000 injuries or illnesses resulting in lost workdays among nurses’ aides and orderlies, for an average of almost eight workdays lost due to illness or injury for every 100 full-time employees. The average for general industry is three days.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that, in 2000, only truck drivers and nonconstruction laborers lost more workdays than nurses’ aides and orderlies. OSHA’s announcement comes at the end of a 60-day outreach initiative supporting the new National Emphasis Program begun in July, which focused inspection efforts on the hazards most common in nursing and personal care facilities. OSHA data indicate that staff are most frequently injured while moving or handling a resident, or by slips, trips, and falls. Exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials, or to TB, is a leading cause of illness.

The National Emphasis Program is expected to last until the end of September 2003 unless it is renewed.