News Release USDL: 96-326
Thursday, August 8, 1996
Contact: Meg Ingold (202) 219-6091
Stephen Gaskill, OSHA (202) 219-6091
Labor Department Launches Worker Safety And Health,
Employer Assistance Program For Nursing Homes
Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich today unveiled
a seven-state initiative to protect workers in
more than 5,000 nursing home and personal care
facilities, one of the nation's fastest
"Nationwide there are 1.6 million nursing home
workers in more than 21,000 facilities. Our
initiative emphasizes helping employers reduce
injuries and illnesses through effective safety
and health programs. The outreach effort will
focus on common hazards found in nursing homes,"
According to 1994 Bureau of Labor Statistics
data, nursing home workers face the third highest
rate of occupational injuries and illnesses among
all U.S. industries with 100,000 or more nonfatal
injury or illness cases--some 221,000 cases in
that year alone. Only meat products processing
and motor vehicle/equipment manufacturing industries
More than half the nursing home injuries and
illnesses are related to handling residents,
and 42 percent are back injuries. Back injuries
average more than $8,400 each in workers' compensation
In September, the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) will begin offering free,
comprehensive safety and health seminars,
specifically designed for nursing home employers,
in seven states--Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts,
Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Assisting the agency in the outreach effort
are the Service Employees International Union
(SEIU) and the American Association of Homes
and Services for the Aging (AAHSA).
Reich noted the special challenges inherent in
developing a safety and health program for nursing
homes. "Nursing facilities are residents' homes.
We must be mindful of safety and health needs for
workers while allowing for a respectful, stable
home environment for those who live there," said
Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Joseph A.
Dear described cases where nursing home employers
have implemented safety and health measures and
achieved dramatic results. "In one case, an
employer's workers' compensation costs dropped
from $750,000 a year to $184,000, after he
implemented a program to handle residents safely,"
said Dear. "The key to reducing injuries and
illnesses is an effective safety and health program.
Solutions to problems need not be expensive. Many
hazards can be eliminated through simple,
common-sense measures or low-cost equipment."
OSHA's seminars will address potential nursing
home hazards including back injuries from incorrect
and/or strenuous lifting of residents; slips and
falls; workplace violence; and risks from bloodborne
pathogens, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.
OSHA has established nursing home coordinators in
each regional office to provide information on the
initiative including outreach materials and seminar
details. To contact the nursing home coordinator
for Conn., Mass., Maine, N.H., R.I., Vt., call (617)
565-9860; for N.J., N.Y., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands,
call (212) 337-2378; for D.C., Del., Md., Pa., Va., W.Va.,
call (215) 596-1201; for Ala., Fla., Ga., Ky., Miss.,
N.C., S.C., Tenn., call (954) 424-0242; for Ill.,
Ind., Mich., Minn., Ohio, Wis., call (312) 353-2220;
for Ark., La., N.M., Okla., Tex., call (214)
320-2400; for Iowa, Kan. Mo., Neb., call (816)
426-5861; for Colo., Mont., N.D., S.D., Utah, Wyo.,
call (303) 391-5858; for American Samoa, Ariz.,
Calif., Guam, Hawaii, Nev., Trust Territories of
the Pacific, call (808) 541-2685; for Alaska, Idaho,
Ore., Wash., call (206) 553-5930. Overall coordinator
for the program is Keith Motley of OSHA's Health
Response Team (801) 487-0521.