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OSHA begins new health care enforcement initiative

On June 25, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a new health care enforcement initiative to evaluate work-related injuries and illnesses at inpatient health care facilities and nursing homes. This initiative will have a significant impact on health care and nursing facilities in Tennessee and nationwide.

OSHA now requires its regional offices to evaluate several major hazards that occur in health care facilities, including musculoskeletal disorders from patient handling, bloodborne pathogens, workplace violence, tuberculosis and slips, trips and falls. Because there are no OSHA regulations for some of these hazards, the agency has instructed its inspectors to issue citations when an employer has failed to provide a safe work environment.

OSHA considers a broad range of inpatient facilities to fit in its target group of hospitals and nursing homes, including psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, hospices, assisted living facilities and others. Nearly all health care or nursing care facilities that provide inpatient services could fall under OSHA's scrutiny.

In order to avoid OSHA citations and the costly fines that go with them, inpatient health care facilities should take proactive steps to improve worker safety. An internal OSHA compliance audit should be done with the aide of legal counsel. Lawyers should also be consulted regarding preparation for an OSHA inspection.

Tennessee health care employees who are injured in a workplace accident may be eligible to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. These benefits may include the provision of medical treatment and a replacement of a portion of lost wages. Some people find it helpful to consult with an attorney as they prepare their claim to ensure all necessary documentation is included.

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