A new campaign that focuses on using ergonomics to prevent injuries in the workplace is being directed at healthcare workers, according to a July 18 release by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).  The agency said that healthcare workers, especially those responsible for patient care, are more prone hazards that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders than those in any other field.

Long-term care workers and those who work in nursing homes are among those in the highest risk category for issues such as sprains and strains, as well as soft tissue and back injuries.  The campaign is targeting 2,500 healthcare organizations in the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

MaryAnn Garrahan, OSHA’s regional administrator in Philadelphia, said that the best way to control these injuries is an efficient prevention program.  “Our goal is to assist nursing homes and long-term care facilities in promoting effective processes to prevent injuries,” said Garrahan.

Participating agencies will receive information about how to control the risk of injury through hazard prevention. For example, many healthcare workers have to lift excessive weight during patient transfers and handling, and the campaign provides information about how healthcare employers can include a patient handling program to prevent these injuries.

Credit: Commons/Pixabay

Credit: Commons/Pixabay

“Common examples of ergonomic risk factors are found in jobs requiring repetitive, forceful, or prolonged exertions of the hands; frequent or heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying of heavy objects; and prolonged awkward postures,” according to information published by the U.S. Department of Labor. “Vibration and cold may add risk to these work conditions.”

“Ergonomics is the science of designing specific items, such as furniture, to comfortably conform to the body and reduce the risk of injury from stress and strain,” according to Ergonomic Office Designs, a California-based Internet retailer of user-friendly furniture.

“Long hours of office work can be stressful to the mind, but time spent at a desk does not have to strain the body as well,” according to the company’s founders, who post videos on YouTube to help employees reduce the risk of workplace injuries.

Watchdog group Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division released a report on July 17 that pointed out that while healthcare workers are at a significantly higher risk for the musculoskeletal disorders, the industry only receives a small percentage of attention from OSHA when compared to other high-risk injuries.

Workers in healthcare and social assistance jobs suffered more than twice as many injuries as those working in construction in 2010, but OSHA conducted nearly 20 times more inspections in construction workplaces than in healthcare workplaces.

“The government has a legal duty to provide a safe workplace for every employee in the country, but it isn’t fulfilling this duty for health care workers,” Keith Wrightson, Public Citizen’s worker safety and health advocate, told Bloomberg.

“OSHA has a variety of tools at its disposal to hold employers accountable for safety and health, and we are committed to improving safety and health conditions for our nation’s health care workers,” the spokeswoman reportedly said.

Public Citizen’s report also points out that the lack of an OSHA-mandated ergonomic-related standard can limit the agency’s power during inspections, and that while the agency did launch a national ergonomics emphasis program for nursing homes and residential care last year, it has since only issued seven citations for unsafe ergonomic conditions since October 2011.