Nurse members from three state nurses associations recently called for action to prevent ergonomics injuries at the Department of Labor''s ergonomics forum in Chicago, Ill.
At last month''s hearing, American Nurses Association (ANA) representatives called for immediate action by OSHA to issue a new ergonomics standard.
Speaking on behalf of the ANA and her constituent member association, the Alaska Nurses Association, Maggie Flanagan, RN, told how she experienced serious back, neck and shoulder injuries that prohibited her from working for eight months.
"Work shouldn''t hurt," said Flanagan during the forum. "American workers deserve workplaces where people are considered more ''valuable'' than profits."
ANA representative Ann Converso, RN, and Rosyln Muhammad, RN, of the Illinois Nurses Association further echoed the need for a strong OSHA standard in her statement at the forum.
Muhammad urged the Department of Labor to use the power in its hands to protect nurses and other workers.
"Without a federal mandate in the form of an OSHA ergonomics standard, nurses cannot be assured of protection from ergonomic hazards in the workplace," said Converso, a nurse for 25 years and vice-chair of ANA''s, labor arm, United American Nurses. "We need the Department of Labor to take action to assure current and prospective nurses that they don''t need to fear a disabling musculoskeletal disorder if they choose to work on the frontlines of health care."
OSHA has estimated that nearly half of all workers in the health services industry, which includes RNs, will experience at least one work-related musculoskeletal disorder during their working lives.
Studies of back-related workers compensation claims reveal that nursing personnel have one of the highest claim rates of any occupation or industry.
"The benefits of the ergonomic standard are logical, documented and proven," said ANA President Mary Foley, MS, RN. "With proper enforcement,
ANA believes the ergonomic standard will not only prevent back injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, but will also improve patient care."
"Additionally," said Foley, "in the face of a nursing shortage that is fast reaching crisis proportions, injuries are a major contributing factor to nurses leaving the profession. An ergonomics standard is badly needed not only to reduce the high number of disabling back injuries and MSDs experienced by nurses, but also to stem a mass exodus of nurses from direct care roles, which has resulted in part from a lack of workplace safety protections."
by Virginia Foran