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10/23/2000

Nursing Homes, Hospitals Face OSHA Inspections

Kate Traynor

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) affirmed last month that many nursing homes and hospitals face comprehensive health and safety inspections by Jan. 31, 2001.

All nursing homes that reported 14 or more illness- and injury-related lost workdays per 100 full-time employees per year will be inspected under OSHA’s site-specific targeting plan. Last year, OSHA inspectors targeted only 20 percent of nursing homes, those with the highest lost workday illness and injury (LWDII) rates. In addition, 1,000 randomly selected hospitals will be inspected.

In general, OSHA plans to inspect workplaces that reported LWDII rates of 14 or higher for 1998. Although the LWDII rate for hospitals was less than 5.0, OSHA added this industry to the inspection list because a large number of injuries and illnesses occur in hospital employees.

Health-system pharmacists who promote preventive measures such as influenza and pneumococcal vaccination may help to reduce the illness component of their workplace's LWDII rates.

Employers in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the 23 states with their own OSHA-approved "targeting systems" are not covered by this directive. Organizations that have had comprehensive health and safety inspections since January 1998 will not be inspected.

OSHA first announced its site-specific targeting plan in February; the September notice clarified issues raised since then. The new plan has fared better than the organization’s cooperative compliance program, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down last year. Under that program, OSHA expected a workplace to be free of all hazards, even if that required the employer to exceed the requirements of existing laws.