Ergonomic Solutions: OSHA has health care MSDs in its crosshairs

Ergonomic Solutions: OSHA has health care MSDs in its crosshairs

The 1960s science fiction show, “Lost in Space,” has little to do with the health care industry or musculoskeletal injury. However, many remember its iconic robot and the warning it voiced when danger was near the show’s youngest character. “Danger Will Robinson, danger!” The health care industry could use such a robot to send out the warning. “Danger, danger. OSHA is coming for you.”

While that may sound harsh, an OSHA memorandum released on June 25, 2015 outlines a potential new strategy to hold health care facilities responsible for musculoskeletal disorders (and other hazards including workplace violence, blood-borne pathogens and TB) incurred by health care workers. There currently are no actual rules in place on implementing safeguards protecting health care workers while lifting and transporting patients. This is not stopping OSHA from citing ergonomics violators.

OSHA’s strategy

Inspectors use the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to cite facilities operating below industry standards, according to CorporateCounsel.com. These noncompliance citations come at a significant financial cost to health care facilities, with fines ranging from $7,000 up to $70,000.

Because the financials tend to be the driving factor in making changes, health care industry executives have four options:

1. Invest in ergonomic training such as proper lifting and moving techniques. The downside of this as mentioned in the previous post, Unsafe at any weight, is proper technique only goes so far and at best, will only reduce the number of injuries.

2. Seek a legal option. CorporateCounsel.com suggests hiring an ergonomist to perform an analysis of the health care facility’s equipment and procedures for lifting/moving patients and go on the offensive against OSHA. This option at best, will only delay any action by OSHA.

3. Maintain a business-as-usual approach. This is the least recommended option as workman’s comp claims, combined with citations from OSHA and legal fees will ultimately overwhelm a facility’s ability to remain financially viable.

4. The best option is investing in patient transportation and lifting equipment. This equipment allows workers to avoid musculoskeletal injury, which in turn increases patient and worker safety. Additionally, with ergonomic safe patient handling and lifting equipment, workman’s comp claims for MSDs are eliminated as are OSHA citations related to MSDs. Legal fees ultimately also decrease. This option is the only one that provides a win-win for all parties.

Win-Win

As a manufacturer of ergonomic solutions for the health care industry, we support the use of motorized equipment to eliminate the risk of musculoskeletal injury caused by push/pull forces. We support our position not because of financial considerations, although we do have a financial stake. We support the use of motorized ergonomic equipment because it will:

  • Extend the careers of the health care industry’s most qualified and experienced workers
  • Eliminate workman’s comp claims, saving medical facilities an average $25,000 to $35,000 per claim
  • Prevent the wasting of precious financial resources to pay OSHA fines and legal fees
  • Deliver a return-on-investment in less than a year compared to paying a workman’s comp claim, fines and legal fees

Musculoskeletal injuries in the health care industry are a concern for all parties. Now, it has the attention of OSHA. The time to act is before their investigator visits your facility. “Danger, health care industry, danger!”

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