OSHA might take a closer look at healthcare injuries
The federal agency that oversees workplace injuries may soon look more closely at the healthcare industry, says Scott Harris, PhD, MSPH, director of EHS Advisory Services for Underwriters Laboratories Workplace Health and Safety, a consulting group based in Franklin, TN.
Among other changes, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) soon might require quarterly filing of the OSHA 300 logs on employee injuries, which would make that information public, Harris notes. That filing would be a change from the current situation in which hospitals must log the data, but it rarely becomes public unless OSHA expresses a particular interest. The proposal is in a comment period.
"Interestingly, OSHA said one of the reasons for making that data public would be for employees to decide if that was someplace they wanted to work. So you could have someone interviewing for a job and saying they're not sure because your back injury rate is twice the national average," Harris says. "And they said customers could decide if the safety of that location means they want to do business there."
Harris has heard other indications that OSHA is ready to increase scrutiny of hospitals and other providers. Even bringing the level of attention up to normal would be a dramatic change, Harris says. The healthcare industry is inspected less than most employers with comparable injury rates, Harris says, and the OSHA fines tend to be less than in other industries — typically half or two-thirds of what other industries might experience.
"That probably has been part of the problem. We all know that OSHA can come and inspect your hospital, but it's just not likely, and people in the industry know that," he says. "Unfortunately the fear of OSHA and the money they can take from you is a big motivator for action in any industry, and healthcare has gotten off easy in that regard for some time now."