Many Pennsylvania residents might consider police officers and firefighters to have far more dangerous jobs than nurses, but this is a misconception, according to data from UL Workplace Health and Safety. The figures suggest that only wilderness occupations like logging and fishing are more dangerous than working in the U.S. health care system. More than 2 million work days were lost in 2011 due to workplace accidents in the health care industry, and nursing homes have the highest accident rates of all.
Ineffective oversight contributes to the problem. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is severely undermanned as they try to monitor conditions at more than 8 million worksites across the country. Each OSHA inspector is expected to oversee the safety of 59,000 covered employees, and this means that inspections at health care facilities are infrequent. However, things may be starting to change. OSHA stepped up their efforts with a raft of new initiatives in 2012, and residential, nursing and ambulatory facilities should soon be seeing additional inspections.
Many injuries are caused by overexertion when handling increasingly heavy patients. Nurses have the highest injury rates among health care workers, and strains, sprains and back tears are common. Exposure to chemicals, violent confrontations with patients, and slips and falls are other leading causes of lost work days. The costs are high, totaling $6.1 billion in 2011, and they are inevitably passed onto patients.
All employees expect their workplaces to be safe and well-managed, but those in hazardous professions need additional protection. Pennsylvania has one of the fairest workers' compensation systems in the country, but the process can seem complex and intimidating. An attorney experienced in this area may be able to help injured workers receive the benefits they are entitled to. They could also file a lawsuit if a workplace accident is the result of negligence, inadequate training or lack of supervision.
Source: UPI, "2 million lost work days a year due to heath worker injuries", October 07, 2013