CIR joined Public Citizen, the American Medical Student Association, and professors from Harvard and Albert Einstein Schools of Medicine in calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assume jurisdiction over the work hours of residents.
“Working these extreme hours for years at a time, predictably, has ill effects on personal health and safety,” the groups wrote in a September 2, 2010 petition to Dr. David Michaels, head of OSHA.
The 43–page petition details the evidence of increased injury to residents from acute and chronic sleep deprivation in the following categories: car crashes, stress and depression, complications of pregnancy and exposure to infectious disease from sharps injuries. It argues that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) continues to avoid addressing this workplace safety issue, thereby necessitating OSHA’s involvement.
In addition to CIR, Public Citizen and AMSA, the petition was also filed by Dr. Charles Czeisler, Baldino professor of sleep medicine and director of the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School; Dr. Christopher Landrigan, assistant professor of pediatrics and medicine at Harvard Medical School; and Dr. Bertrand Bell, professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of who headed up the Bell Commission which developed New York’s work hours limits in 1989.
Dr. Michaels of OSHA responded with a statement that his agency will consider the petition and is aware of the evidence linking sleep deprivation with “an increased risk of needle sticks, puncture wounds, lacerations, medical errors, and motor vehicle accidents.”
“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,” Dr. Michaels said. “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.”