Nursing Home Company Settles Case, Adopts Ergonomic Measures

Beverly Enterprises agrees to adopt specific measures to reduce back injuries among employees as part of a settlement it reached after a long battle with OSHA.

Some lawmakers and government officials might claim that there is no need for an ergonomics standard, but don't tell that to Beverly Enterprises Inc., one of the nation's largest nursing home operators, or its employees.

As part of a settlement reached with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Beverly Enterprises will adopt specific measures to reduce back injuries for employees involved in lifting nursing home residents. The company also agreed to establish a training program and purchase mechanical lift equipment. The settlement applies to all Beverly Enterprises facilities within federal OSHA jurisdiction.

"After years and years of litigation, we are pleased to resolve this matter and move forward with steps to eliminate hazards and better protect the employees of Beverly Enterprises," said Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The agreement settles 18 citations issued by OSHA to five Pennsylvania nursing homes following a 15-month investigation that began in May 1991 in response to complaints that workers were suffering back injuries related to lifting and transferring residents. The agency found that the company's injury and illness records revealed numerous musculoskeletal injuries sustained by nursing assistants that resulted in extensive lost work time and restricted work duty. The agency proposed a fine of $34,800.

Beverly Enterprises contested the citations before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) administrative law judge, who set aside the citations. In November 1995, OSHA appealed OSHRC's ruling on the basis that the agency clearly showed the existence of a hazard to nursing assistants through, among other things, documented back injuries in the five nursing homes and through the testimony of expert witnesses.

"This agreement represents a major commitment to eliminate serious injuries and provide these employees the needed protection," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "The company has agreed to implement these new changes not only at the Pennsylvania facilities but also at all locations within federal OSHA jurisdiction."

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), District Local 1199P and Local 668, which represent workers at the Pennsylvania facilities, also signed the settlement agreement.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, Beverly agreed to withdraw its contest of the citations and OSHA agreed to withdraw the proposed penalties.

Beverly Enterprises Inc., headquartered in Ft. Smith, Ark., is one of the largest nursing home operators in the U.S. The company currently operates approximately 240 nursing homes that are covered by this settlement. The cited facilities involved in this agreement are Carpenter Care Center in Tunkhannock, Pa.; Blue Ridge Haven Convalescent Center (d/b/a West Shore Health and Rehabilitation Center) in Camp Hill, Pa.; Beverly Manor of Monroeville in Monroeville, Pa.; Meyersdale Manor in Meyersdale, Pa.; and Richland Manor in Johnstown, Pa.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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