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Oklahoma health care workers and OSHA guidelines

Oklahoma health care workers and their employers should be aware of a recent OSHA initiative that focuses on improving working conditions in inpatient care facilities. It applies to nursing homes, psychiatric care facilities, substance abuse clinics and any other institution that admits patients for residential or inpatient care. These changes were introduced in a Guidance Memo as part of the Inspection Guidance for Inpatient Healthcare Settings memorandum.

The Guidance Memo requires both federal OSHA offices and state agencies to evaluate the prevalence of work-related injuries and illnesses among inpatient care facilities in their areas. Once these assessments have been made, compliance officers are required to investigate those facilities with the highest rates of incidence. Inspections that reveal further hazards to employee health may be expanded and in one notable case, a facility was assessed penalties totaling more than $200,000 for multiple violations.

OSHA requires that compliance officers focus on musculoskeletal disorders, which are common among health care workers responsible for moving patients, workplace violence, bloodborne pathogens, tuberculosis, and slips and falls. Compounding hazards that may result in an expanded investigation include multi-drug resistant organisms, hazardous chemicals and hazardous drugs. While many of these hazards do not correspond to existing regulations, officers may give general citations to those employers who fail to provide a safe work environment or have existing regulations that do not keep employees safe.

Workplace injuries in any setting can often result in serious long-term health issues such as brain and spinal cord injuries. Injuries that cause the employee to be unable to work for a long period of time may also have financial consequences beyond medical expenses. An attorney can often be of assistance to an injured worker with the preparation and filing of a claim for workers' compensation benefits.

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