According to a recent report published by consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, work-related accidents in the health care industry are a bigger problem than most of us realize. In addition, not a heck of a lot has been done to address well-known risks to workers in health care.
One of the reasons for the problem is that the health care workplaces are subject to far fewer safety inspections than other industries. In fact, medical facilities receive only one-twentieth the number of visits from Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors when compared to construction sites, despite the fact that there are twice as many health care workers.
Additionally, when OSHA does inspect work environments, it doesn't have protocols to address every unsafe condition, such as ergonomic conditions, or workplace violence. These risks are covered by a more general provision, which requires additional proof in order for inspectors to adequately address--which means hospitals don't always get cited for such conditions where they exist.
Unsafe ergonomic conditions is a particular problem in the workplace, and is one which OSHA has had difficulty addressing. Anybody who lives with a nurse can attest to the back problems they encounter because of their job. Back in 2000, a measure to protect workers from such conditions was stalled and ultimately blocked, resulting in no action. So, Congress is partly to blame.
Those who suffer workplace injuries, particularly back problems, can find themselves unable to continue working. For these folks, workers' compensation can provided a safety net until they are able to recover. Hopefully, though, problems that commonly afflict health care workers will be adequately addressed in the future as a result of increased awareness.
Source: Huffington Post, "The Hidden Health Care Problem," Taylor Lincoln, July 17, 2013.