Report: North Carolina Hospital Staffers Risk Work Injury

For most people, hospitals are supposed to be a place of healing.
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However, for those who work there, it can be an extremely dangerous place. In fact, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration recently released a report indicating that hospitals are one of the riskiest places to work, with some 255,000 work-related injuries and illnesses reported in 2011.

Bear in mind, those were only the reported instances of illness and injury, and that broke down to about 7 work-related illnesses and injuries for every 100 full-time workers. Our Winston-Salem workers’ compensation lawyers recognize that this is about double the rate for the private industry as a whole.

In terms of injuries and/or illnesses resulting in time off work, nursing is worse than both manufacturing and construction – two industries that are generally thought to be the most hazardous.

Nationwide, hospitals pay out some $2 billion annually in workers’ compensation claims to injured or ailing workers.

Most of these injuries stem from overexertion from lifting, bending or reaching, resulting in sprains and strains. This accounts for nearly half of all hospital staff injuries, and it usually involves patient handling. A quarter of injuries are sustained through slips, trips and falls, Another 13 percent result from being struck by objects. Nine percent are the result of some type of violence. About 4 percent involve exposure to substances. The remaining one percent involves all other causes.

Some 80 percent of nurses reported in a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey that they “frequently” work with some type of musculoskeletal pain. About a quarter of all nurses said they changed shifts or took sick leave in order to recovery from an injury that they did not report.

On average, a workers’ compensation claim costs a hospital between $16,000 and $23,000.

Generally, those who work in nursing home and residential care facilities tend to suffer the greatest level of injuries and illnesses, followed by hospital workers and then those who in the ambulatory care services (paramedics, EMTs, etc.).

Workplace fatalities for health care workers are relatively rare, but they do occur (about 24 a year). Most of those involved motor vehicles, but almost as many involved violence. The rest were due to falls and exposure to harmful substances.

What’s especially concerning is that injuries suffered by hospital workers and other health care providers is only expected to increase. The reason is two-fold: age and obesity.

With regard to age, a large portion of hospital workers (those in the baby boom generation) are aging. These workers tend to make workplaces safer because they carry with them a great degree of knowledge and experience. However, age can increase a worker’s susceptibility to illness and injury. Bones become more brittle. Cartilage wears away. The immune system slows.

Just in the last decade, the average age of hospital workers rose from 40 to 43.6.

With regard to obesity, patients on average are getting larger. This means moving them becomes especially risky.

OSHA’s recent report focuses a great deal on the costs of these situations to hospitals, even though the long-term effect on a worker can be life-altering and possibly career-ending. The hope is, however, that hospitals and other health care providers will take note and adjust safety policies and raise standards so that employees will someday enjoy a greater level of protection.

If you have been injured at work in Winston-Salem, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Worker Safety in Hospitals, Caring for Our Caregivers, February 2014, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Adminis tion

More Blog Entries
NC Work Injuries Decline, Still Too Many Employees Hurt on the Job, Feb. 5, 2014, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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