After 249% increase in illness and injuries, healthcare industry urged to do better

Healthcare saw the highest workplace illness and injury numbers of any industry in the country. The Labor Department is urging healthcare companies to work for a safer year.

The U.S. Department of Labor is asking healthcare organizations to do more to prevent workers from injuries and illnesses.

The healthcare industry saw a 249% increase in injury and illness rates in 2020, the year the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. Scores of workers have been infected with the coronavirus. Workers in healthcare and social services suffered more injuries and illnesses than any other industry in America.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a division of the labor department, is urging healthcare organizations to do more to protect workers. OSHA is making the pitch to improve safety ahead of National Caregivers Day on Feb. 18.

Ryan Hodge, OSHA’s acting Regional Administrator Ryan Hodge, made the appeal in Kansas City, Missouri Wednesday.

“Healthcare workers routinely face the risks associated with exposures to bloodborne pathogens, drug residue, X-ray machines, respiratory illness and ergonomic injuries related to lifting patients and repetitive tasks,” Hodge said in a statement.

“Our nation’s caregivers have made extraordinary sacrifices in recent years – putting themselves on the frontline in a pandemic – and we owe it to them to ensure their employers are doing all they can to protect their employees” he said.

OSHA advises healthcare organizations to install and use safety and training programs to protect workers.

Hodge cited Community Hospital Onaga in Kansas, part of the Community HealthCare System Inc., as a success story. Two decades ago, the hospital began working with OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program, and he said it made a difference, helping the hospital maintain injury and illness rates below the industry average.

“As COVID-19 spread, Community HealthCare System implemented a plan to protect employees and clients. Other healthcare systems can follow their model by encouraging a mindset that anticipates and addresses hazards before they cause harm,” Hodge said in a statement.

Hospitals should strive for recognition in OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, which recognizes employers that have top programs to protect workers.

Workplace safety is on the mind of healthcare system employees. A recent survey by Stericycle found most said the pandemic has affected their sense of safety at work, and most said the improper disposal of medical waste poses risks to workers.