Healthcare workers have very physical jobs. Lifting and assisting patients requires strength and stamina. Moreover, stretching, reaching, and pushing patients on beds up and down hallways and ramps often results in workplace injuries to healthcare workers. Among all occupations, healthcare workers have some of the highest cases of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) workplace injuries. MSD injuries account for 33% of workplace injuries that cause employees to miss time at work.
Workers who suffer from previous MSD injuries can cause further injury by physically overexerting themselves or if they use repetitive motions during their work day. Injuries to healthcare workers that are exacerbated by an earlier MSD injury can include pinched nerves, back injuries including herniated discs, carpal tunnel syndrome or sprains and strains.
Why are Healthcare Workers at Risk for Workplace Injuries?
Nursing assistants top the charts with the highest rate of musculoskeletal disorders followed by laborers, truck drivers, janitorial workers and registered nurses. The overall number of MSD workplace injuries in the U.S. is exorbitantly high. Surprisingly, OSHA does not have prevention standards for employers to prevent MSD injuries.
Very often, healthcare workers put the well-being of others before their own. Responding to patients who have been very seriously injured requires workers to act first and think about what they may be doing to their bodies later. Long hours are also part of the job and every healthcare worker is familiar with double shifts. Fatigue, coupled with physical labor, puts healthcare workers at increased risks for a work injury.
Health care workers have the important job of caring for people who are sick, injured and in need of caring, compassionate medical attention. While it can be an extremely rewarding career, health care workers face a whole host of unique, potentially hazardous situations every day that put their health and well-being at risk. Working with sick patients can be physically demanding and patients can sometimes become violent. In addition, workers are constantly exposed to a wide range of infectious diseases.
Another leading cause of injury to healthcare workers is alarming. The third most common cause for healthcare worker injuries is workplace violence committed by a patient or a family member. There are 146 workplace violence incidents for every 10,000 state healthcare workers.
Some Philadelphia healthcare workers attribute workplace violence injuries to staffing issues. Many healthcare facilities and hospitals are understaffed leading employees to often deal with unstable patients on their own instead of with a team of fellow workers. If healthcare workers are employed in areas where crime rates are high, such as inner cities, the chances of being hurt by patients or patients’ families increases.
A health care worker who is injured at a hospital, clinic, emergency room or doctor’s office is eligible for Workers’ Compensation. But filing a claim can be a complex process. An experiencedDelaware County Workers’ Compensation lawyer can walk you through each step of the claims and appeals process and make sure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries.
Common Types of Workplace Injuries in the Health Care Industry
There are a wide range of jobs within the health care field, ranging from orderlies to home health aides to registered nurses. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are over 18 million people working in the health care industry, 80 percent of whom are women. These employees face a variety of potentially hazardous situations that can cause injuries, including the following:
- Overexertion/Repetitive Stress – OSHA reports that health care workers are over seven times more likely to suffer musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) compared to other workers. According to OSHA, of all health care workers, nursing aides, attendants and orderlies have the highest risk of MSDs.
- Patient handling activities – This can include heavy manual lifting as patients are repositioned or transferred to a different position.
- Needle sticks – Health care workers are at risk of being cut or punctured by a needle or sharp medical instrument.
- Violence – Health care workers and social service employees are at risk of being violently assaulted by patients, their families and friends in hospitals. Moreover, hospitals and clinics are often targeted for drugs.
- Slips and falls – Health care workers can slip and fall when water or other liquids are spilled on the floor.
- Understaffing – Due to budget constraints, many health care facilities are understaffed. This can increase the risk of injury because of the added pressure imposed on employees to work faster and take on more responsibilities.
When exposed to the above conditions on a regular basis, health care workers run the risk of becoming injured. Some of the more common types of injuries that health care workers experience include the following:
- Sprains and strains – According to OSHA, this is the most frequently reported injury. Most sprains and strains tend to occur in the back and shoulders.
- Slipped discs – Transferring or lifting patients can damage discs, which consist of the fleshy tissue that cushions your spinal bones.
- Blood borne infectious diseases – According to the CDC, there is a significant increase in the risk of spreading blood borne diseases like HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis B or C as a result of needle sticks.
- Infections – Exposure to mucus and bodily waste, as well as airborne pathogens, can increase the risk of infection.
- Broken bones – Fractures usually occur as a result of workplace violence.
- Head injuries – These typically happen as a result of slip and fall accidents or workplace violence.
Compensation Options for Injured Health Care Workers
Health care workers can pursue two different options if they have been injured on the job. They can either file a Workers’ Compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit, depending on how the injury took place.
- Workers’ Compensation will cover the expenses related to an injury that was a direct result of doing your job. It will also cover injuries or illnesses resulting from repetitive stress and/or exposure to toxins. Your medical bills will be covered, as well as partial lost wages for missed work. If you become temporarily or permanently disabled, you may become eligible for partial or total disability benefits.
- Personal injury lawsuits allow you to collect money if someone else is to blame for your injury. For example, if you were attacked by a patient while providing care, the person who attacked you can be held liable through a third-party personal injury claim. In some cases, you may collect more money in a personal injury claim because you can receive damages for things likepain and suffering, which you may not pursue in a Workers’ Compensation claim. Once injured, a healthcare worker may become a patient of the facility where they work. If the standard of medical care they receive is below the normal standard of care, resulting in additional injuries or delayed recovery time, the “worker” may be able to pursue a claim for Medical Malpractice, separate and apart from their claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Our Delaware County Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Advocate for Healthcare Workers Injured on the Job
Delaware County Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Lerner, Steinberg & Associates represent injured healthcare workers in Pennsylvania and Delaware. We will work diligently to ensure that healthcare workers injured on the job receive Workers’ Compensation benefits to which they are entitled. Call us today at (215) 355-6400. You may also contact us online to discuss the details of your case.