News & Events

Tufts pays $5,000 OSHA fine for violations in tracking nurse injuries

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
May 2010 Edition

Management at Tufts Medical Center was recently forced to pay a $5,000 fine to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration for numerous lapses in its efforts to track injuries to nurses. These injuries included a significant number of needle stick injuries that could have exposed nurses to life threatening pathogens, including HIV and hepatitis C. In addition, management was forced to post a public notice for its nurses that detailed the lapses.

The settlement agreement with OSHA was reached after it issued a letter detailing a number of instances where the hospital failed to document and track injuries to staff. Under federal law, all workplace injuries must be tracked on what are commonly known as “OSHA 300 logs.” The logs are a vital tool used to monitor the type and frequency of workplace injuries, and for identifying ongoing workplace safety issues that may need to be addressed. The investigation by OSHA resulted from a complaint filed by the MNA, which discovered the lack of proper injury tracking while doing its own investigation of unreported incidents of workplace violence at the facility in 2009.

According to the OSHA investigation, Tufts Medical Center did not prepare an annual summary of work-related injuries and illnesses for 2007 or 2008. It also failed to track the days employees were not able to work due to injuries (even when an employee was out for over 180 days), to keep the employees name private as is mandated by law, and to document sharp and needle stick injuries and illnesses (this happened 67 times in 2007, 90 times in 2008 and 59 times in 2009). Needle stick injuries are a serious concern for health care workers. Such injuries can expose nurses to blood borne pathogens, like HIV and hepatitis C. It is vitally important to track these injuries to help identify trends and potential causes of these injuries.

“For a hospital, particularly a major teaching hospital, to show such a lack of concern for the health and safety of its workers is a travesty,” said Barbara Tiller, RN, a clinical resource nurse at the facility and chair of the MNA’s local bargaining unit at Tufts. “Any health care provider knows that documenting the existence of a problem is the first and most important step in being able to address it. We see this as part of a pattern of behavior on the part of this administration to disregard their obligations, not only to its staff, but also to the patients under our care. We hope this fine and penalty send a message to our administration that they need to be accountable for the conditions they create for their workforce.”

The OSHA investigation over problems with worker safety is the latest in a series of ongoing issues the nurses have had with the hospital in recent years. Nurses staged a picket outside thehospitalonFebruary11toprotestdangerous staffing conditions at the facility resulting from a change in the nurse’s staffing pattern, which the nurses claim violated the hospital’s obligation to negotiate those changes as stipulated in the their union contract. Since the new model of care has gone into effect, there have been hundreds of official reports filed by nurses documenting unsafe staffing incidents. In fact, there were 132 such reports filed over a 179-day period through March.

As with the problem of the OSHA logs, the hospital has failed to address any of the nurses staffing and patient safety concerns.

The nurses at Tufts have continued to document their concerns and are preparing to reach out to the hospital’s board of trustees as well as to local public officials for support in their efforts to improve conditions at the facility.