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Injuries in nursing field prevalent, strong legislation stalled

Pittsburgh employees may be interested in some information about one occupation that may be at greater risk of on-the-job injury than others. Pushback against legislation, however, may be preventing the proactive safety measures that could prevent these injuries.

On Nov. 14, 2000, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforced a rule that required employers to institute measures preventing ergonomic on-the-job injury. These included repetitive stress injuries to the legs, arms and back. The rule specifically noted injury issues in the nursing field related to lifting and moving patients. The rule was soon shut down by Congress after a campaign by business owners acting against it. Similar rules have been attempted on a state level, but most have been stifled or have little to no enforcement power.

This leaves those in several professions with little legal support against potentially disabling work-related injuries. According to statistics, orderlies and nurses have the highest rate of nonfatal injuries due to these issues at work. Many nurses are limited in the time that they spend in the profession due to these injuries, according to the OSHA chief. However, some studies show that the use of specialized equipment for moving patients results in a large reduction in nurse injuries. One hospital found an 80 percent lower injury rate, while the Veterans' Affairs hospitals saw an average of 40 percent fewer injuries across their locations.

The pushback from businesses may be stopping the requirements for these preventative measures, forcing a worker that is injured on the job to look to their litigation for potential compensation. An attorney may be able to assist them by assessing the situation and bringing the appropriate claim. This could include a workers' compensation claim or legal action against their employer.

Source: NPR, "Despite High Rates Of Nursing Injuries, Government Regulators Take Little Action," Daniel Zwerdling, March 24, 2015

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