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OSHA enforcement in nursing and health care facilities

While Pennsylvania residents may be most familiar with the safety challenges nursing homes and hospitals face in providing care to patients, OSHA has recently increased its vigilance over the safety conditions for workers in these institutions. In the past, these industries have received little scrutiny from OSHA, but a June 2015 announcement from one of the organization's leaders has resulted in greater attention to and enforcement for in-patient care facilities.

OSHA will be monitoring workplace injury and illness statistics, increasing its inspection of those health care facilities that have high incident rates. The priority hazards to be monitored will include tuberculosis and bloodborne pathogens. Workplace violence, slips, trips, and falls will also receive greater attention. Musculoskeletal problems because of the handling of patients will also be a top area of interest. However, it is important for those administrating such facilities to realize that even those areas that are not detailed in regulations could come under scrutiny through a general duty clause. Examples would include exposure to MRSA, harsh chemicals and hazardous medications.

Because of this change, it is important for those overseeing ambulatory health care businesses to understand that similar complaints are coming under consideration in those settings. In one case, a $200,000 penalty was assessed for numerous violations. This significant of a fine is typically only imposed in cases involving fatalities, which was not an issue in this particular situation.

An employer's obligation to provide a safe work environment is important in any industry. An employee who suffers a work-related injury is often eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Many injured workers obtain the assistance of an attorney when preparing and filing the required claim.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford has been a member of the local Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce (previously known as North Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce) for more than 25 years.

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