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OSHA urged to prioritize worker safety in healthcare industry

When contemplating the issue of worker safety, most Americans likely think about traditionally high-profile and high-risk industries like forestry, commercial fishing and factory work. However, a startling number of injured workers in America sustain their injuries while working in the healthcare industry. In fact, a recent report released by Public Citizen indicates that healthcare workers become injured and made ill on the job more often than workers in any other American industry overall.

Public Citizen credits the healthcare worker occupational illness and injury rate partially to a lack of federal safety standards targeting these professionals specifically. In addition, the organization argues that too few safety inspections are conducted within healthcare facilities. In fact, construction sites benefit from an inspection rate that is 20 times the number of healthcare facility inspections conducted annually. This problematic trend allows safety hazards to fester and grow.

According to Public Citizen, healthcare workers suffered approximately 654,000 occupational illnesses and injuries in 2010 alone. This number represents an increase of 152,000 over the rate of occupational illnesses and injuries in manufacturing, which is the second most affected industry. Though commercial fishing and forestry may have higher injury rates percentage-wise, the healthcare industry clearly suffers the most injuries and work-related illnesses overall.

As a result of this preventable and tragic trend, Public Citizen is urging that OSHA be properly funded so that it can invest more financial resources, time and personnel in preventing worker illnesses and injuries in the healthcare industry. Given the number of workers affected by safety hazards in this industry annually, it is not an illogical or unfounded request.

Source: The Tennessean, “Report warns OSHA needs more funding for health care worker safety,” Aug. 4, 2013

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