One might think that American hospitals would be among the safest work sites in the country. Indeed, with all of those healthcare professionals milling around all day, one would expect safety to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Perhaps it is, but statistics don’t “fib.” According to information recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), almost 58,000 work-related injuries occurred in 2013, the last year for which such data is complete. That amounts to 6.4 work-related injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time employees, a rate that is twice as high as the overall rate for private industry.

What’s Going on in Our Hospitals?
Overexertion appears to be one of the primary issues. Statistics indicate that almost half of all work-related injuries in the healthcare industry were linked to overexertion. Particularly alarming, healthcare workers are almost four times more likely to sustain injury as a result of violence than the average employee in the private sector.

Rising Obesity Rates
The rising obesity rate is a significant issue in healthcare workers’ injuries. By that, we don’t mean that nurses have put on a few pounds. Rather, patients have become more obese in recent years, and those patients tend to end up in hospitals and nursing home settings where they have to be moved and assisted by the nursing staff. That extra weight on the backs of healthcare workers is resulting in many more work-related injuries.

Nurses are Getting Older
Not only are their patients becoming more and more obese, the average age of the American nurse has increased in recent years. The average age of a registered nurse in the U.S. is now 44 years. It isn’t, therefore, that nurses are required to lift heavier patients; it’s that older nurses are required to lift them.

A Bit of Good News: Many Hospital/Nursing Home Injuries Can Be Prevented
If there is a bit of a silver lining, it is in the fact that recent studies have also shown that many hospital and nursing home injuries are preventable. Evidence-based research has shown that safe patient handling interventions can significantly reduce overexertion injuries by replacing manual patient handling with safer methods. Mechanical equipment is now available that can lift and move patients, so that healthcare workers can avoid using manual exertions. This results in fewer injuries. It also results in maximizing the safety and comfort of patients during handling.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other interested parties have introduced other safe patient handling programs. Many hospitals have established specialized training to show how to minimize the risk of injury when lifting and moving patients. Soon perhaps the tide will turn.

Injured Workers Need Advocates to Help Ensure Compensation for Their Injuries
Have you suffered a work-related injury? Is it due to overexertion? If so, you likely need the skilled services of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure that you recover, if your claim is compensable. At Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, we have helped many hard-working folks just like you. Call or contact us for a free consultation. Talk to an experienced lawyer who can help you sort out your rights. We can be reached by phone at 888-675-7607, or you can complete our online form. We look forward to discussing your situation with you.