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Musculoskeletal workers' injuries common in health care industry

Health care workers in New York may benefit from the extension of the National Emphasis Program on Nursing and Residential Care Facilities, managed by the Occupational and Safety Health Administration. OSHA is particularly concerned about the numbers of workers' injuries caused by violence at the workplace, and ergonomic injuries resulting from regular repositioning, lifting and moving of heavy patients. The agency plans to provide additional resources to inspect care facilities that have above average levels of occupational illnesses and injuries.

Many health care workers are exposed to musculoskeletal injuries due to inadequate lifting equipment. Because the government does not currently mandate such equipment, many facilities have -- up to now -- failed to install equipment to lift patients. For this reason, nurses have to lift and move multiple patients during every shift. An example of the successful use of lifting equipment is the Department of Veterans Affairs. It significantly lowered injury incidents by installing equipment valued in excess of $200 million to safely handle patients.

Violence in the workplace is also a matter of great concern, and OSHA has recently updated its related safety guidelines. The agency reported that health care workers are significantly more likely to suffer violence-related injuries than workers in other industries. Two New York medical facilities were fined by OSHA last August for failing to protect workers against violence. OSHA plans to pay particular attention to safety initiatives at health care facilities.

New York health care employees who have suffered injuries while on duty have the right to pursue claims for benefits. Many of the musculoskeletal workers' injuries that are prevalent in the health care industry cause long absences from work -- and in some cases the inability to return to work at all. The workers' compensation insurance fund typically covers medical expenses and a percentage of lost wages. The severity of the injuries will determine whether an injured victim is entitled to additional compensation for temporary or permanent disability.

Source: fiercehealthcare.com, "OSHA doubles down on efforts to curb nurse injuries", Leslie Small, June 12, 2015

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