Health Care Workers: Unprotected Insufficient Inspections and Standards Leave Safety Risks Unaddressed

Source: Public Citizen, July 17, 2013

On March 8, 2012, John Shick walked into Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh with one motive on his mind, to cause harm to others. Upon his arrival, Shick opened fire in the lobby. His shooting rampage left one person dead and six others wounded. Although we cannot know for certain, the incident might have been prevented if the Western Psychiatric Institute were required to have a plan to prevent violence, as recommended nearly two decades ago by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). But OSHA never issued a rule to require employers to create such a plan. The Western Psychiatric Institute, in turn, had no “policy or procedure that specifically addresses the risk of patient on staff violence,” according to a draft report on the shooting. The insufficiency of OSHA’s actions to prevent workplace violence is emblematic of overall shortcomings in the agency’s efforts to protect health care workers. The government’s responsibility, as written in law, is “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions.” But OSHA is not fulfilling that obligation for health care workers, who suffer more injuries than workers in any other sector in the United States. In 2010, for instance, health care employers reported 653,900 workplace injuries and illnesses, more than 152,000 more than the next most afflicted industry sector, manufacturing.