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Why are OSHA inspectors targeting U.S. hospitals?

If compiling a list of the occupations in which people are most likely to suffer debilitating injuries, chances are very good that you'd identify workers in sectors like construction, manufacturing and commercial transportation.

While these would all be good -- and accurate -- guesses, you'd still be missing the industry identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as the single most dangerous for debilitating injuries among workers: nursing.

Why exactly is nursing such a dangerous profession?

OSHA experts indicate that nurses are more at risk of suffering debilitating arm and back injuries than any other profession, and that the primary cause of this work-related trauma is lifting and moving patients.

Indeed, these injuries are often so bad that nurses often have to undergo punishing surgeries or even leave the profession entirely.

Aren't nurses trained on how to avoid these types of injuries?

Yes, nursing schools have been teaching students how to properly lift and move patients -- i.e., proper body mechanics -- for over 100 years. The problem, however, is that even bending your knees and keeping a straight back can't serve to prevent all of these arm and back injuries. Indeed, the problem has likely been exacerbated by the growing number of obese patients.

Is there any way to prevent these injuries to nurses?

OSHA indicates that special equipment designed to move patients like ceiling lifts can go a long way toward preventing arm and back injuries among nurses. However, it also indicates that many hospitals are lacking an adequate supply of this equipment despite knowing how well it works in preventing harm.

Does OSHA plan to do anything to rectify this?

A few weeks ago, OSHA head David Michaels announced that his agency will now be sending inspectors to hospitals across the nation to determine if adequate safety measures to protect nurses are in place. As part of this process, inspectors will examine internal documents and conduct interviews with hospital staff.

If a hospital is found to be lacking the appropriate measures to prevent significant ergonomic hazards, they could face fines of anywhere from $7,000 to $70,000.

It's encouraging to see OSHA taking this matter so seriously.

Those nurses, nursing assistants or other medical professionals who suffer serious injuries while on the job should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about their rights and options as they relate to workers compensation benefits. 

Philpot Law Firm, PA
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Greenville, SC 29601

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