Nurses Win OSHA Safety Settlement with Virtua

Decemeber 13, 2016

Virtua Memorial Hospital reached a settlement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding violations of safe patient handling regulations nurses raised at the hospital. Under the settlement, Virtua agreed to take corrective actions, including instituting a comprehensive safe patient handling program within one year and paying a fine of $12,471.

Nurses represented by HPAE, the largest healthcare union in New Jersey, first reported dangerous working conditions in May to the NJ Department of Health, which recommended filing a complaint with OSHA. OSHA then cited the hospital on November 14 for failure to provide “a place of employment which was free from hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employeesby requiring medical staff to perform unsafe patient handling tasks.

“Despite repeated discussions with the employer regarding a dangerous work environment that puts healthcare workers at risk for back, neck and other injury, the employer refused to address our concerns,” said Debbie White, president of HPAE Local 5105 representing RNs at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mt. Holly.  “We called OSHA to investigate and we are pleased with the settlement.  Our hope is that it will force Virtua to make changes in safe patient handling and thus reduce injuries to all direct caregivers.”

The settlement agreement reached with OSHA this week requires the hospital to take corrective action, including:

  • Virtua agrees to pay the penalty payment of $12,471 by December 20, 2016.
  • Virtua agrees to institute a “comprehensive safe patient handling and mobility program within 12 months.” The program includes a safe patient handling committee, equipment for nurses to safely move patients, a plan to make equipment readily available, training for managers and caregivers, and an annual evaluation of the program with revisions based on data analysis.
  • Virtua agrees to consult a certified ergonomist to assist with implementing the comprehensive safe patient handling program.
  • Virtua agrees that OSHA will conduct at least two “monitoring inspections” at the hospital in 2017, to ensure their compliance with the settlement.

“In every workplace, OSHA plays an important role to enforce health and safety standards for all workers across the nation.  Now more than ever it is imperative to ensure OSHA will continue to provide these protections at Virtua and in every healthcare facility for the safety of workers and patients,” said Bernie Gerard, HPAE Vice President.

HPAE represents RNs at Virtua Memorial Health hospital in Mount Holly, Virtua Community Services, and Virtua’s Center for Women. Nurses will enter contract negotiations next year to continue advocating for health and safety provisions in contracts for all 875 nurses that expire May 31, 2017.

Read the full agreement here.

For more information: Bridget Devane, 732-996-5493