Working in a hospital is the most dangerous occupation of all. Believe it or not, it is more hazardous than working in the construction or manufacturing industries. In fact, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that working in a hospital is twice as dangerous as working in “the private industry as a whole.”
For every 100 full-time hospital workers, 6.8 individuals annually must take time off of work due to a work-related injury or illness. That means nearly 55 injuries a year for the Albany Medical Center (AMC), which has nearly 800 employees. St. Peter’s, which is another large healthcare employer in the Capital region, although with fewer beds than AMC, also has its share of annual hospital worker injuries.
The real statistics are thought to be much higher. Workers who are less severely injured, and are able to work on a modified schedule are not counted, even though they are injured seriously enough to collect workers compensation benefits.
Unique Risks to Hospital Workers
Hospital work is unpredictable, especially for registered nurses and their assistants. They are often faced with having to make split-second decisions and many put their own safety at risk so they can help a patient. There are some particular risks unique to hospital workers.
They Have to Re-Position Patients
This sometimes requires workers to lift and transfer patients who, in addition to having limited mobility, may be quite heavy. Recently, a 300-pound patient fell on the floor. A team of hospital personnel rallied to lift her back into bed. One hospital nurse who was helping suddenly heard something in her back snap. It turns out the nurse required back surgery with the implantation of several metal devices. She has difficulty walking and will likely never be able to return to her work as a nurse.
Nearly 50 percent of all hospital injuries that keep workers home are due to lifting, bending, or reaching. Almost all are related to moving patients. In addition, according to OSHA, 54 percent of all workers’ compensation claims due to hospital injuries are due to strains. Approximately 80 percent of all nurses say they “frequently work with musculo-skeletal pain.”
Slips, Trips, and Falls
The second most common hospital injuries are due to slips, trips, and falls. This accounts for 25 percent of all days taken off work by injured hospital workers. Slip and fall injuries happen to all hospital workers, not just those involved in patient care. Some of the hospital problems that contribute to these injuries include:
- Liquids puddle on the floor. This happens in food service areas, near sinks and drinking fountains, soap dispensers, and anywhere else where liquids of any kind are used.
- Indoor walkways are irregular. These are found in operating rooms, patient hallways, around drains in the floor, and floor mats or carpets may be misaligned.
- Outdoor walkways need repair. Even grassy areas may have holes that are hidden from view. Debris may be on the path, such as rocks or leaves. In inclement weather, rain, sleet, or snow left on the walkway will contribute to slips and falls.
- Stairs and handrails need repair. Even when in good repair, a hospital worker in a rush to get to another floor is prone to slipping and falling as they hurry up or down the stairs.
- Falling off of step stools and ladders. These tools are often used in medical records departments, pharmacies, and hospital kitchens. Falls off of ladders account for 20 percent of all workplace injuries in all industries.
- Clutter on the floor. Clutter on the floor is common in patient rooms, near the nurses’ station and in storage areas.
In the past few years, hospital workers have been subject to violent attacks. One publication has referred to the problem as “an epidemic of violence.” The report notes that, “Health-care workers are hit, kicked, scratched, bitten, spat on, threatened and harassed by patients with surprising regularity.” Violence is responsible for 9 percent of hospital workers filing workers’ compensation claims.
Workers’ Compensation Claims for Hospital Workers
As for any employee who is injured on the job or develops a work-related illness, workers’ compensation may provide benefits that pay for medical expenses and lost wages. It is important to know that you cannot be fired or discriminated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim based on your hospital injury.
General rules require you to report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. Although your employer cannot claim you were negligent and responsible for your own injury, depending on the status of your employment, the hospital may argue that you are an independent contractor and not covered by workers’ compensation or that your injury was not work-related.
If you were injured while working at a hospital, you may need the assistance of an experienced Albany workers’ compensation lawyer like Paul Giannetti, Attorney at Law. Contact him for a free consultation.