Nursing staff face high risk of workplace injury

Injuries are possible in virtually every field of work, but there are certain types of employment that hold a higher-than-average level of risk. Many in Massachusetts believe that industries such as construction and manufacturing are among the most dangerous places to earn a living. In reality, however, statistics suggest that nursing is the field in which workers have the greatest risk of sustaining a workplace injury.

Data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that in 2013, more than 2,800 workers in private hospitals were absent from work due to a musculoskeletal injury. The majority of these types of injuries are due to strain sustained while attempting to move immobilized patients. Workers who were in direct contact with patients, such as aides and orderlies, were four times more likely than the average worker to miss work because of an injury.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association is pushing for legislation that would require the state's hospitals to create and implement safe patient handling protocols, including using lifts to assist in moving patients. Currently, two-thirds of hospital intensive care units do not have lifts. Facilities that do use lift equipment report a reduction in the number of workplace injuries related to moving patients.

For nurses and staff in Massachusetts who have already suffered a workplace injury due to lifting immobilized patients, legislative changes will fall under the category of "too little, too late." Whether an injury is due to a one-time event or is a chronic condition, there are avenues of legal recourse available. Workers' compensation can assist in covering the cost of receiving the proper medical treatment for these injuries, and can also help individuals and families make ends meet until the affected worker is able to recover.

Source: wgbhnews.org, "Why Mass. Nurses Suffer More Workplace Injuries Than Construction Workers", Craig Lemoult, Feb. 5, 2015

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