Doctors and nurses working at a hospital.
Photograph by Getty Images/Tetra images RF

OSHA is about to crack down on hospitals.

By Claire Zillman
June 25, 2015

What’s the occupation that reports the most debilitating worker injuries?

It’s not factory work, or hazardous jobs on an oil rig or a construction site. It’s nursing.

Nurses and nursing assistants are plagued by back and arm injuries from lifting and moving patients on a daily basis, and hospitals have done little to prevent those injuries.

On Thursday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will announce an effort to crack down on hospitals for such failures for the very first time. The agency’s chief David Michaels told NPR that OSHA will no longer just recommend safe practices for hospitals; it will actually fine hospitals for not adopting them.

Studies have shown that the best way for nurses to move patients is with special equipment such as ceiling lifts. OSHA’s new enforcement program will examine the types of machines hospitals own and the way hospitals train their staff to use them.

Michaels told NPR: “Sadly, there will be some hospitals where we find significant ergonomic hazards, and they are at risk for serious penalties.” Fines will likely total $7,000 per hospital, but could reach as high as $70,000 in instances of deliberate violations.

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