Report: Back injury risk is especially high for NY healthcare workers

Reports indicate that musculoskeletal injuries, such as low back injuries, are more common among healthcare professionals than any other workers.

Back pain and back injuries are common afflictions among workers in New York City. According to the National Institutes of Health, low back pain is the top work-related cause of disablement. It is also one of the most common reasons for employees to miss time from work.

The risk of back injuries exists in almost any occupation, particularly those that involve lifting. Sadly, though, research suggests that the people tasked with keeping others healthy may be most at risk for these injuries.

Demands of healthcare

The New York Times notes that nurses and other healthcare workers often face intense physical demands while performing their jobs. These professionals generally work for 12 hours at a time, standing and performing physical tasks, such as lifting patients. Not surprisingly, these workers have a significant risk of suffering injuries.

Nursing consistently ranks among the worst industries for occupational injuries. Every year, almost half of the employees in this industry suffer from low back pain. Furthermore, three-quarters of these professionals experience pain from on-the-job strains or sprains.

According to National Public Radio, nursing professionals annually suffer over 35,000 back and musculoskeletal injuries that result in time missed from work. Nursing orderlies have the worst injury risk of any occupation. These workers suffer over three times the rate of injuries that construction workers do. Nursing assistants, registered nurses and personal care aids also face a nontrivial injury risk.

Injury prevention

NPR explains that many back injuries and other nursing injuries stem from lifting patients. These lifting injuries may occur in one moment or as gradual repetitive stress injuries. Troublingly, even when nurses use safe lifting practices, they place dangerously large amounts of force on their bodies. Factors such as staffing shortages and patient obesity may exacerbate this problem.

Some experts note that there is no safe way for healthcare workers to directly perform patient lifts. Specialized machinery that can lift patients has been shown to reduce nursing employee injuries by up to 80 percent. Unfortunately, many hospitals do not utilize this technology or enact regulations that limit patient lifting. This may leave many healthcare professionals vulnerable to injuries.

Claiming injuries

Healthcare workers who suffer work-related injuries in New York may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. To receive benefits, these workers must prove that their injuries arose directly in the performance of their jobs. They also must notify their employers within 30 days. If a worker's claim is found legitimate, the worker may be entitled to various benefits. These include:

  • Medical benefits
  • Payment for time initially missed from work
  • Payment for lingering disablement

Additionally, vocational rehabilitation may be available to workers who can no longer perform their past jobs.

Unfortunately, proving that a back or musculoskeletal injury is truly debilitating and prevents work can be challenging. Establishing the origins of a slow-onset repetitive stress injury can also be difficult. As a result, victims of these injuries may benefit from consulting with a workers' compensation attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on adequately documenting the claim and navigating the claim process.

Keywords: workers' compensation, injury, accident