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Fate of federal programs to improve worker safety in question

Regular readers of our blog will recall that we have written about the trials and tribulations of those in the nursing community. In one post not too long ago, we took note of how news reports about the high rate of occupational injury among nurses had prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to launch a nationwide inspection of hospital facilities, including those within the Department of Veterans Affairs

What sparked that probe were claims that hospitals across the country haven't bothered to implement safety protocols and devices for the movement of patients. Indeed, nurse back injuries are among the most common of work injuries submitted for coverage under workers' compensation programs. That's despite available technology and training that could reduce the risk. In addition, there's the threat so many hospital workers face from exposure to unhealthy environments and patient diseases.

One outcome possibly attributable to the investigation is that OSHA has started to draft new rules designed to enhance safety in hospitals. Unfortunately, that work started in the final days of the Obama administration and now there is concern that all the efforts will go by the wayside under the Trump administration.

Representatives of the AFL-CIO point to a couple of specific actions taken by the new regime already. First is the repeal of OSHA rules that require employers to maintain accurate safety and health records for five years, rather than six months. Second, there are the ordered delays in implementing rules to limit worker exposure to silica and beryllium.

Another fear of labor advocates is that budget cuts will further erode efforts to promote safety and further crimp already hobbled federal and state OSHA enforcement inspections.

Those with experience in seeking compensation benefits for injured government workers across the nation know obtaining the benefits can be a challenge. It's one they do not have to face alone.

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