New Jersey health care workers at high risk for injury

Although a fatal injury is rare in the health care industry, workers are subject to high risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

Health care is one of New Jersey's top industries, according to Choose New Jersey, and hospitals, medical schools, universities and research facilities comprise some of the 21,000 health care organizations in the state. More than 140,000 people work in New Jersey hospitals alone.

Although fatal injuries are not common in health care, the industry is actually the top source of workplace injuries in the United States, according to Public Citizen.

Health care injuries

The primary harm workers face in health care comes from musculoskeletal disorders. These conditions affect the supporting structures of the legs, arms, neck and back, such as muscles, tendons, cartilage, joints and nerves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, a union that includes the United Nurses of America, points out that back injuries are the most common suffered by health care workers, and particularly attendants, nursing aides and orderlies. Moving patients is one of the primary tasks that can lead to a spinal injury.

Although an injury can happen because of a sudden accident, back pain is often caused by repetitive motions. The more times health care workers complete a motion, the more likely they are to suffer harm, especially when the task requires a significant amount of force. Moving patients is one such activity, and the fact that the movements must be made while leaning or bending at angles increases the chances of injury.

Common risks

Any time an employee works a long shift, fatigue can become a factor in safely performing job duties. Inadequate staffing in the health care industry often creates the types of conditions that can lead to injury.

Employers have a responsibility to protect workers, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration is one of the primary agencies ensuring safe working conditions by setting standards and conducting regular inspections. However, according to Public Citizen, health care has a marked lack of standards and corresponding inspections compared to other industries. Experts believe this may be one reason for the high number of injuries.

Injury prevalence

OSHA statistics show that an average of 34 workers out of every 10,000 suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Compared to that number, the 249 attendants, nursing aides and orderlies suffering from musculoskeletal disorders out of every 10,000 is extremely high.

When an employee notices an occupational hazard that the employer fails to address, it should be reported to OSHA. A lack of action and subsequent injury may make an employee eligible for workers' compensation to cover medical costs and some portion of lost wages. An attorney may be able to provide advice on the proper course of action after a work-related injury. The experienced attorneys at Willis & Gresek Counsellors at Law are prepared to help with each step along the way, including seeking medical treatment, obtaining workers' compensation benefits and pursuing a personal injury claim.