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Report shows nurses are getting hurt at work

Nurses and health care workers in Pennsylvania have long been aware that the heavy lifting that their job requires is damaging to their health. Human beings are notoriously difficult to lift and move. A ninety pound woman is called a "light" patient, but in nearly every other industry a ninety pound weight is considered too heavy to safely move alone. The difficulties of keeping the patient comfortable and uninjured during the moving process must also be taken into account.

Now a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nurses, nurse assistants, and other health care workers are more prone to musculoskeletal work-related injuries than any other profession, even physically demanding ones such as firefighting. The heavy and unwieldy weights that they have to negotiate are extremely deleterious to their health. What is more, there is no national oversight whatsoever. OSHA and state governments do not demand safe lifting procedures.

Although more than 3,000 hospitals and clinics have voluntarily subscribed to the safe lifting practices standards published by the American Nurses Association, their compliance is voluntary and any hospital can opt out. These standards advocate the purchase of lifting equipment, the hiring of more personnel, and the institution of training classes for health care workers that expect to lift people. The increasing weight problem in the patient population only makes these changes more critical. Unfortunately, OSHA has refused to institute national standards. Even on the state level reformers have found their efforts frustrated. For example, a safe lifting bill in California was vetoed five times before it finally passed in 2011, and the changes mandated by the new law have yet to be fully implemented.

The recent statistics make it clear that nurses, nursing assistants, and health care workers are at more risk of on-the-job injury than practically any other American. There is no doubt that something must be done to protect them. If there is reason to believe that an on-the-job injury has lead to debilitating and lasting harm, then it can be an excellent idea to consult a lawyer for advice.

Source: ABC News, "Nurses prone to injures with heavier patients", Sydney Lupkin, September 26, 2013

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