By James L. Curtis and Meagan Newman

In response to increased injury and illness rates for health care support workers, OSHA announced yesterday that a National Emphasis Program on Nursing Home and Residential Care Facilities will be launched in the coming months.  The data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the incidence rate for health care support workers is almost 2 1/2 times the rate for all private and public sector workers.  Assistant Secretary David Michaels stated, “It is unacceptable that the workers who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are sick are the very same workers who face the highest risk of work-related injury and illness.”

The Emphasis Program will increase inspections on these facilities and focus on ergonomic hazards, bloodborne pathogens, workplace violence and slips, trips and falls.  The announcement comes on the heels of OSHA’s new compliance directive that addresses workplace violence in health care and late-night retail establishments.  Health care employers should also familiarize themselves with OSHA’s 2004 guidance on preventing workplace violence in health care and social service settings.