Health care workers in Pennsylvania and across the nation have some of the highest rates of workplace injuries, according to a recent report by the U.S. Labor Department. Factors that increase the likelihood of injuries, especially to nurses and their assistants, include inadequate hospital staffing, violent patients and their families and low safety and health standards in health care work environments.
Because health care workers are often required to perform repeated motions, pushing and heavy lifting, their muscles can easily become overexerted leading to pinched nerves, sprains, carpal tunnel syndrome, herniated discs, pain, sprains and strains. These injuries, known as musculoskeletal disorders, accounted for just over a third of all the illnesses and injuries causing work absences.
Among U.S. workers experiencing the most instances of MSD are nurses’ assistants. The next employment carrying the risk for MSD are laborers followed by freight workers, semitrailer drivers, janitors and RNs. While MSD is the primary source of injury to nurses’ assistants, injuries from falls rank as the second source while violence is the third source of injuries. According to the report, workplace violence occurs to nurses’ assistants mainly from hospital patients they are treating or from a family member of the patient.
Experiencing a workplace accident can be very stressful for workers and their families. Besides trying to regain strength and get back to normalcy, a worker who was injured on the job may also feel the financial strain the accident can cause, especially if his or her income supports a household. Because of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, workers and their families are entitled to certain benefits when they apply for workers’ compensation, regardless of how the workplace accident occurred. While the filing process is not necessarily complicated, it is sometimes advisable to work with an attorney.