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OSHA chief Michaels speaks out on long work hours, fatigue and worker safety (9/2)

September 2, 2010
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OSHA has been petitioned by Public Citizen, a national advocacy organization, as well as other groups and individuals, to issue regulations that would limit the work hours of resident physicians. In response to the request, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, Dr. David Michaels, issued the following statement:

"We are very concerned about medical residents working extremely long hours, and we know of evidence linking sleep deprivation with an increased risk of needle sticks, puncture wounds, lacerations, medical errors and motor vehicle accidents. We will review and consider the petition on this subject submitted by Public Citizen and others.

"The relationship of long hours, worker fatigue and safety is a concern beyond medical residents, since there is extensive evidence linking fatigue with operator error. In its investigation of the root causes of the BP Texas City oil refinery explosion in 2005, in which 15 workers were killed and approximately 170 injured, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board identified worker fatigue and long work hours as a likely contributing factor to the explosion.

"It is clear that long work hours can lead to tragic mistakes, endangering workers, patients and the public. All employers must recognize and prevent workplace hazards. That is the law. Hospitals and medical training programs are not exempt from ensuring that their employees' health and safety are protected.

"OSHA is working every day to ensure that employers provide not just jobs, but good, safe jobs. No worker, whether low-skilled and low-wage, or highly trained, should be injured, or lose his or her life for a paycheck."

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