Workplace safety has remained a top priority for employers in Pennsylvania and across the country. There is also evidence of a recent shift in focus by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health concerning how employers keep workers safe and prevent on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
In the past, most workplace safety issues have been focused on how to directly prevent specific injuries and illnesses. In short, the focus was on the problem and not necessarily on its wider causes. This has been shifting in recent years to a more comprehensive focus on the work environment and organization. Experts and researchers investigating work-related injuries have come to realize that changes and improvements to the work environment can be a strong factor in preventing work-related health issues and injuries. This approach is being championed by the Total Worker Health initiative that NIOSH has funded.
These changes are especially apparent in the hospital setting. In one example, a hospital’s policy to get patients up and moving more often put extensive physical demands on nurses and other staff. This may have led to a sharp increase in injuries resulting from lifting patients, but the hospital was guided to make other comprehensive changes. These included the use of slings and machines to help with moving patients as well as providing the training needed to make full use of them. The hospital-wide effort allowed an ambitious care policy to be employed with few negative impacts on staff health and safety.
Despite these positive trends in workplace safety, workplace accidents will unfortunately continue to take place. Most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage, and eligible employees who have been injured on the job may want to have legal assistance when preparing and submitting their claim for benefits.