OSHA’s Michaels Puts Focus on Long Work Hours, Fatigue and Worker Safety

In response to recent requests from advocacy organizations and individuals to issue regulations that would limit the work hours of resident physicians, OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels acknowledged that long working hours and worker fatigue is a safety concern not only for medical residents, but for employees in other industries as well.

According to OSHA, Public Citizen, a national advocacy organization, and other groups and individuals have petitioned the agency for legislative action on this issue.

“We are very concerned about medical residents working extremely long hours, and we know of evidence linking sleep deprivation with an increased risk of needle sticks, puncture wounds, lacerations, medical errors and motor vehicle accidents. We will review and consider the petition on this subject submitted by Public Citizen and others,” Michaels said.

Michaels added that the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s investigation of the fatal 2005 BP Texas City oil refinery explosion identified worker fatigue and long work hours as a likely contributing factor to the deadly blast, demonstrating that this issue goes beyond the medical field.

“It is clear that long work hours can lead to tragic mistakes, endangering workers, patients and the public. All employers must recognize and prevent workplace hazards. That is the law. Hospitals and medical training programs are not exempt from ensuring that their employees’ health and safety are protected,” he explained.

“No worker, whether low skilled and low-wage, or highly trained, should be injured or lose his or her life for a paycheck,” said Michaels.

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