Tennessee residents who work as nurses in residential care facilities or hospitals may not be surprised to read that health care continues to present the highest rate of injuries relative to any other general industry. The hazards of the profession, primarily tied to lifting and transferring patients, have been highlighted in a number of media reports, including one about a 43-year-old nurse who was unable to walk until she received surgery for a back injury after she helped lift a heavy patient who had fallen. Injuries like hers are unfortunately common in an industry that, according to reports, lacks sufficient lifting equipment to assist nurses with tasks that can strain muscles and joints and even result in permanent disorders.
In order to significantly reduce the number of workplace injuries reported by nurses in health care facilities, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is extending a program that is both collaborative and punitive in nature for facilities that violate the federal agency’s broader workplace safety guidelines. Specific federal mandates for equipment used to lift and transfer patients or similar ergonomic measures, however, do not exist, but OSHA does promote their implementation as a best practice, and it will examine their use as well as the use of broader patient handling policies in multiple facilities operated by the same corporate entity in order to determine their overall impact on the industry’s injury rate.
The incidence rate of nonfatal injuries and illnesses in residential care and nursing facilities as well as hospitals is much higher than that for other private industry sectors, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2012. The implementation of special lifting equipment in Veterans Health Administration facilities reportedly reduced such injuries by about 40 percent.
Workers in high-risk industries such as health care could be greatly impacted by a musculoskeletal condition brought on by performing the strenuous tasks their jobs require. With the help of an experienced attorney, a successful workers’ compensation claim could help assuage some of the financial consequences of such an injury.