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Health care workers face highest incidence of workplace injury

On behalf of of Frederick & Hagle posted in Workplace Injuries on Monday, August 12, 2013.

Workers are more likely to suffer a disabling injury in the health care industry than any other occupation. By far, the highest incidence of workplace injury in Illinois and nationwide occurs in the health care industry. Based on a report by a non-profit consumer organization, Public Citizen, the government needs to invest in far more inspections of health care sites and must develop comprehensive federal safety standards for the industry.

Public Citizen’s report relies primarily on data collected by the Department of Labor & Industry for the year 2010. It has been reported that health care had 654,000 incidents of workers injured on the job that year. This was about 152,000 more than the next-most afflicted industry, manufacturing and even significantly higher than the third industry, construction.

Health care workers face risks from needle sticks, lifting and moving patients and equipment, latex allergies and violence. With twice as many health care workers as construction workers, OSHA nonetheless inspects construction sites 20 times more than health care sites. Public Citizen concludes that the government has failed in its promise to health care workers. It agrees that limited resources to OSHA more than anything are impeding the agency. Also, manufacturing and construction do have more lethal and serious workplace injuries.

OSHA has implemented several health care safety standards but lacks standards for ergonomic injuries, which involves lifting and moving patients, repetitive trauma and the like. Nursing aides, orderlies and attendees are more likely to have a workplace injury in this category. The report warns that OSHA needs additional funding to dramatically increase the number of inspections, devise new safety standards and enforce new legislation.

In Illinois, workers’ compensation claims frequently arise regarding a workplace injury to a health care worker. For example, severe disabling back injury may prevent continued work. The employer’s workers’ compensation carrier often tries to deny these claims, on the basis that it was a normal consequence of aging, it happened at home or it can’t be proved to be a workplace injury. Alternatively, the carrier will insist that the worker can still work due to the limited nature of the injury. Even still, injured workers may still be able to prevail in a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

Source: tennessean.com, “Report warns OSHA needs more funding for health care worker safety,” Fatimah Waseem, Aug. 4, 2013

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