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150 sites have high injury rates Health care providers dominate WNY list

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has told 150 local employers -- 40 of them nursing homes -- that their workers face more than twice the average risk of injury.

The federal safety agency released a list of 14,000 hazardous work sites in March which included the local companies. The listed employers had at least 5.3 injuries per 100 full-time workers, based on a survey in 2005. The average was 2.4.

"This identification process is meant to raise awareness that injuries and illnesses are high at these facilities," Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. said in a statement.

OSHA looked at relatively serious injuries, referred to as "lost-time" injuries, that result in days-off from work, transfer, or job restrictions. The average rate for all injuries, including those that don't require time off, was 4.6 per 100 workers.

In Western New York, health care providers dominated the list, which included hospital system Kaleida Health as well as other hospitals and nursing home operators. Health care workers are at risk for strain injuries caused by lifting patients.

Many of the other companies were in manufacturing, trucking and warehousing, and metal fabrication. Included were some of the area's major employers, such as auto parts plants Delphi Corp. in Lockport and Ford Motor Co. in Hamburg, metal processor Gibraltar and DuPont's chemical plant in Niagara Falls.

Retailers weren't exempt from high injury rates. Three Home Depot outlets and three Wal-Mart stores received letters, OSHA said. Also named was Perfect Fit Glove Corp. in Cheektowaga, a maker of safety gloves.

Not included were public employers such as fire departments. Construction companies, which work at multiple sites for short periods, also did not make the list.

Kaleida is investing heavily to bring injury rates down, officials said. The five-hospital system has spent $2.5 million on mechanical lifts and new beds, and is seeing a sharp drop in patient-handling injuries as a result.

"The cost-benefit has been all on the plus side," said Paula Pless, director of Kaleida's safe patient handling program. "We're almost getting a full return on the investment."

Injuries have cost the company about $16 million a year in workers' compensation, the company has said. The "Zero Manual Lift" program was announced in July of 2005, the year of the survey on which OSHA based is injury rates.

OSHA began notifying high-injury employers in 1999, in a push to reduce workplace hazards. Smaller companies can receive free safety consultation from OSHA without fear of penalties, the agency says. The list doesn't cover employers in 21 states that administer work safety programs at the state level.

The businesses included most often were nursing care facilities, home centers, continuing care retirment centers, lumber and plywood wholesalers, warehouses, long-distance truckers, beer wholesalers, grocery wholesalers and soft drink manufacturers.


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