If you operate a nursing home or residential care facility, it is time to take a hard, critical look at the health and safety risks in your workplace.  Failure to correct problems could prove a very expensive mistake – as a nursing home in New Jersey recently discovered.

In 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) for nursing and residential care facilities. Relying on a workplace injury and illness rate for caregivers that was 2.3 times higher than in all private industries as a whole, David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, declared "it is not acceptable that [caregivers] continue to get hurt at such high rates." 

On November 26, 2013, OSHA cited a New Jersey nursing home for 10 alleged serious violations and one other-than-serious violation. The alleged serious violations carry $48,600.00 in proposed penalties.  The inspection of that nursing home was initiated as part of the NEP for nursing and residential care facilities.  Echoing Assistant Secretary Michaels' comment, Paula Dixon-Roderick, Director of OSHA's Marlton, New Jersey area office, said, "the increasing rate of injuries and illnesses among hospital and healthcare workers underscores OSHA's concern about the safety and health of these workers," adding that "[t]he workers that care for our loved ones deserve a safe workplace.  OSHA is committed to ensuring effective hazard prevention measures nationwide."

The New Jersey nursing home was cited for the following alleged violations:

  • Employee exposure to excessive levels of heat in the laundry
  • Failure to ensure workers wore appropriate eye protection
  • Failure to ensure easy access to sharps containers
  • Exposed wires from an industrial washer
  • Failure to provide suitable eyewash facilities, bloodborne pathogen training, Hepatitis B vaccines, and effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in the workplace
  • Failure to properly use flexible electric cords and label hazardous chemical containers
  • Failure to develop a written hazardous communication program
  • Failure to have material safety data sheets and safety data sheets for each hazardous chemical used in the workplace

It is clear that OSHA is concerned about the safety and health of caregivers in nursing and residential care facilities.  Operators of such facilities will be well served to review their health and safety policies and procedures now to ensure OSHA compliance.  When OSHA knocks, it may be too late.