Philadelphia Healthcare Workers' Compensation Attorney

Healthcare Workers

The healthcare field is comprised of many different types of workers from physicians and nurses to home health aides, orderlies, attendants, and physical therapists. Healthcare workers operate in a variety of settings, including hospitals, emergency facilities, clinics, birthing centers, home health care, and nursing homes.

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Special Workplace Issues for Healthcare Workers

All occupations in the American workforce come with risks. However, there are specific workplace hazards that healthcare workers endure that are unique to the healthcare industry. One of the issues facing the healthcare industry is the shortage of healthcare workers. Because of the increased stress and workload that is associated with the healthcare industry, healthcare workers like nurses and nursing home employees are experiencing job burnout and retiring from the industry in significant numbers. The increased workload also places additional stress on the remaining healthcare workers and increases the chances of workplace accidents happening.

Healthcare workers are also exposed to multiple chemicals, pathogens, and biological hazards on a daily basis. Constant exposure to these types of biological threats can negatively affect the workers’ health. Healthcare workers are also at risk of succumbing to ergonomic injuries from the constant, repetitive nature of their occupation. Healthcare workers have to repeatedly lift patients and push heavy equipment in multiple locations. The repetitive lifting, moving, and repositioning of patients lead to overexertion for healthcare workers, causing significant injuries like back pain, numbness, soreness, and tingling.

Healthcare Workers and Work Injuries

Healthcare is a hazardous field for several reasons, and the healthcare industry has the highest rates of work-related injuries and illnesses. The annual number of reported injuries and illnesses surpasses those in manufacturing. Causes of injury and illness in healthcare workers include:

  • Biological hazards such as bloodborne pathogens, which can be contracted through needlesticks
  • Respiratory hazards such as exposure to the waste, anesthetic gas, and other chemical and drug exposures
  • Workplace violence
  • Overexertion due to lifting and turning patients
  • Repetitive tasks
  • Slip and falls
  • Exposure to radioactive material and x-rays

The above factors contribute to these common injuries in healthcare workers:

  • Sprains and strains, ruptured and herniated discs and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are very common among healthcare workers. Providing healthcare can be a very physical job. Patients who are unable to move must be transported to tests and appointments, and they must be turned in their beds to prevent the development of bedsores. It is not surprising that nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants have one of the highest rates of MSDs of all occupations. Understaffing and long shifts increase the risk of injury. Employees that develop work-related back injuries may have a long recovery period before they are able to return to the job.
  • Repetitive motion injuries are a form of MSDs that occurs when a worker is required to use the same muscle group repeatedly for the same task. For example, workers who use computers daily to enter patient data can develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Workplace violence is, unfortunately, a serious hazard for healthcare workers and includes any threat or act of harassment, intimidation, or physical violence. It can take the form of verbal abuse, physical assault, or even homicide. Acts of violence can come from patients on psychotic medications, their families or friends, or from hospitalized criminals receiving treatment. Roughly half of all emergency department nurses report being verbally or physically abused or threatened. Workplace violence can result in injuries like broken bones, fractures, and lacerations.
  • Head injuries can also occur from acts of workplace violence as well as from slips and falls.
  • Illnesses such as hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS can be contracted through needlesticks and sharp injuries. Healthcare workers also have a higher risk of infection through exposure to airborne pathogens and biological waste.
  • Occupational illnesses can result from exposure to toxic chemicals used for sterilization, preservation of specimens for pathology, cleaners, and lab work.

There are many steps hospitals and nursing homes can take to protect their healthcare workers. These include implementing programs to prevent needlesticks and sharps injuries, providing lifting equipment to minimize the risk of back injuries, ensuring adequate security measures are in place and hiring enough staff so that injuries from overexertion can be avoided.

What Are Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are disorders and injuries of the muscles, tendons, nerves, and joints. Employees are at risk of obtaining work-related musculoskeletal disorder through two types of work conditions:

  • The work environment and manner in which the work is performed has to contribute substantially to the disorder
  • The disorder has to worsen or persist longer as a result of the work conditions.

Musculoskeletal disorders are responsible for different types of workers’ compensation costs, including absenteeism, lost productivity, and increased health care and disability costs. What makes musculoskeletal disorders so unique is that they are more severe than the usual nonfatal injury or illness. Because of musculoskeletal disorders, there are nearly 70 million physician office visits in the United States.

Types of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

Some of the common types of work-related musculoskeletal disorders are:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: This type of musculoskeletal disorder occurs when the median nerve at the wrist is compressed. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include tingling, numbness, muscle atrophy, and weakness.
  • Back pain: Back injuries and back pain are some of the top ten reasons for medical visits. In fact, back pain becomes chronic for five to ten percent of patients.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis is a broad term that describes more than 100 rheumatic diseases that affect joints, the surrounding joint tissues, and other connective tissues. Arthritis limits the abilities of nearly 19 million adults, and the severity and pattern of symptoms depend on the particular form of the disease.

Techniques That Help Reduce Overexertion

There are certain practices that can help prevent healthcare workers from developing injuries caused by overexertion. Some of these techniques include:

  • Display the proper lifting techniques when lifting a heavy object.
  • Incorporate material-handling equipment like carts that assist with transporting heavy objects.
  • Take short breaks when performing strenuous tasks and relax any tense muscles.
  • Refrain from adding any extra weight to an already full load.
  • Take frequent breaks every 20 to 30 minutes.

Help for Injured Healthcare Workers

If you are a healthcare worker who has been injured on the job, you may be eligible for compensation and benefits. An experienced Philadelphia work injury lawyer can advise you on filing a Workers’ Compensation claim, which will pay for medical costs related to your injury. If your injury forces you to miss work, wage loss benefits are available. Disability benefits, both temporary and permanent, may also be paid where applicable. Family members surviving a worker who suffers a fatality are eligible for death benefits.

Philadelphia Work Injury Lawyers at the Law Office of Gross & Kenny, LLP Advocate for Pennsylvania’s Injured Workers

Contact a skilled Philadelphia work injury lawyer of Gross & Kenny, LLP if you have questions about filing a Workers’ Compensation claim. Our practice is focused exclusively on helping injured workers. Call 215-512-1500 today to schedule a free consultation about your case or contact us online. Our office is conveniently located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and we proudly serve clients throughout the state.

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