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New Jersey medical facilities face increased OSHA scrutiny

In the wake of a newly released memorandum from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, inpatient and outpatient health care providers in New Jersey and nationwide are coming under increased OSHA scrutiny concerning worker injuries incurred in the performance of their duties. The memorandum notes that while OSHA is primarily concerned with five key areas of worker safety, OSHA inspectors also have broad discretionary authority to note other areas of active concern or risk.

Under OSHA's "general duty" clause, unsafe working conditions may extend beyond musculoskeletal disorders, slips and falls, tuberculosis, bloodborne pathogens and workplace violence, extending to exposure to certain kinds of drug-resistant infections and chemicals. The "general duty" clause involves items that are not specifically or otherwise regulated but nevertheless may pose an undue risk to worker safety.

According to the memo, facilities with high rates of workplace injury and illness, particularly those that offer assisted or inpatient health care, are to be specifically targeted for inspections. In the wake of a recent investigation, an ambulatory care provider was assessed a $200,000 penalty after a worker complained to OSHA, even though no fatalities had resulted. Because of the increased willingness of OSHA inspectors to hand down citations and the fines that accompany them, health care providers nationwide should be prepared for possible announced inspections.

A person who has been injured in a workplace accident may be eligible to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits under the employer's insurance coverage. The benefits that may be available can include medical treatment as well as a percentage of lost wages. An attorney who has experience with these types of matters can often be of assistance throughout the process.

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