Arizona workers’ comp: health care workers suffer high injury rates

It is no secret that health care settings can be dangerous places to work for doctors, nurses, aides and others. Duties involve heavy lifting, long periods of standing and walking, and frequent bending; exposure to contagious disease, infection, radiation and toxic substances; use of dangerous medical equipment like needles and syringes, and potential allergens like latex; risk of harm from violence; and the stress of caring for patients with chronic, serious and fatal health conditions.

All of these workplace features can be hazardous to the physical and mental health of hospital, clinic, nursing home, home care and other health workers.

To put the risks in perspective, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the health care sector of the economy has almost 20 million workers, almost 80 percent of whom are female. The CDC says that health care workers have one of the highest rate of workplace injury and disease of any economic sector, despite the preventability of many of the causes of health care worker harm.

The NPSF study

The National Patient Safety Foundation, known as the NPSF, issued a whitepaper in March 2013 about health care worker safety issues in the workplace and secondarily, resulting harm to the patients they serve. According to the report:

  • One-third of nurses annually have back injuries or other musculoskeletal problems and the same proportion of new registered nurses look for other employment within the first year.
  • Many health care settings have cultures of disrespect, humiliation and intimidation, and even violence toward employees, causing psychological injuries.
  • Health care duties are performed under intense time pressure.
  • The overall rate of workplace physical harm to health care workers is an incredible "30 times higher than in other industries."
  • Basic safety practices are all too often lacking like protective equipment from exposure to patient blood.

To develop the whitepaper, the NPSF held roundtables and focus groups of health care workers and management as well as scholars. Participants were surveyed and the results were shocking: health care workforce safety is not much of a concern and in the last decade very little progress has been made in increasing respectful treatment of health care workers in the work setting.

Talk to a workers' compensation attorney

If you work in a health care-delivery system and have been injured, contracted an infection or disease at work, or suffered psychological harm, seek medical attention immediately, and speak with an experienced workers' compensation lawyer for help filing a workers' compensation claim for your medical bills and lost wages. Although normally workers' comp is the exclusive legal remedy for work-related harm, your attorney can also advise you if any legal remedies such as a personal injury lawsuit might be available to you outside of the workers' compensation system in your individual circumstance.