National Nurses United (NNU) is sharply criticizing the Obama administration for a decision by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Tuesday to withdraw a rule requiring employers to report musculoskeletal injuries to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
"This is a disturbing sign that the Obama administration may be putting the economic interests of employers ahead of the safety of nurses and other working people," says Karen Higgins, RN, co-president of the 160,000-member nurses union.
The decades-old rule was pulled by the DOL at the request of the White House's Office of Management and Budget, according to NNU.
"Nursing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S., and nurses are especially subject to serious back and other musculoskeletal injuries," says Higgins. "One step we can take to keep nurses safe and at work is to have an accurate picture of when and how they are hurt on the job."
Serious back injuries typically are caused by nurses lifting and turning patients, and can lead to permanent disability.
"Current, accurate reporting will allow us to pinpoint causes of chronic disabling injury, such as on which shift nurses tend to be injured and which duties account for the highest number of injuries," Higgins emphasizes. "The rule is important to allow workers and hospitals to identify unsafe practices earlier and put in place corrective equipment and procedures, and then analyze whether such corrective interventions had a positive impact on worker safety."
In addition to calling on the Obama administration to restore the rule, NNU is sponsoring legislation in Congress to require all hospitals to provide sufficient life equipment it says will reduce workplace accidents that not only injure nurses but aslo endanger patients.