OSHA Strikes … Again. Is Your Workplace Ready?

Jun 25, 2015

On June 25, 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced that it will ramp up enforcement of its rules and regulations in the healthcare setting. While this announcement is limited to one industry, employers in all industries should be aware of the announcement’s consequences.

Every year OSHA announces areas for increased enforcement, and you can guarantee it will use its resources to inspect those areas. In its announcement, and on its new “Worker Safety in Hospitals” website, OSHA cites that, in recent years, it has received more and more complaints from nurses about back and arm injuries, some of which can be career-ending.

This year, hospitals made OSHA’s list for ergonomic injury avoidance (notably, epidemic preparedness, i.e., an Ebola outbreak, also made the list). In the coming months, hospitals chosen for inspection can expect questions from OSHA investigators about equipment available to employees for moving patients, the hospital’s response to injuries, the hospital’s training programs focused on injury prevention, and more.

OSHA inspectors rarely finish an inspection without issuing a fine. Fines range drastically depending on the violation, from de minimis to hundreds of thousands of dollars. For hospitals targeted under its latest enforcement efforts, OSHA has suggested the average fine for a hospital inspected under its latest enforcement action will be $7,000, but could be as high as $70,000.

OSHA is not at the forefront of many employers’ agendas. However, it should at least be on the agenda. There are literally thousands of occupational safety and health regulations covering almost every private employer in some way. With OSHA’s new focus on the ergonomic injuries affecting the nation’s nurses, employers can be sure ergonomic injuries prevalent in other jobs will eventually be OSHA’s focus. Additionally, the more “traditional” occupational hazards – such as falls, chemicals, heavy machinery, and the like – will always be on OSHA’s radar.

Before OSHA strikes at your workplace, make sure you have a safety plan in place and are following OSHA’s injury reporting requirements. If you are unsure about the regulations that are mandatory v. voluntary for your workplace, peruse OSHA’s helpful employer safety guides and flow charts on its website. Finally, have a plan for managing an OSHA inspection.

If you have any questions about your organization’s safety-preparedness or OSHA compliance, please contact Adam Hirtz.

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