Jul 2014

Musculoskeletal Injury Risk Among Home Health Care Workers

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyThe nursing home and home health care industries are the fastest growing industries in the country as baby boomers age. Unfortunately, nurses and healthcare aids who provide assistance to seniors face significant workplace risks. From potentially violent residents to needle sticks and exposure to disease, these workers are exposed to many -on-the-job hazards. One of the biggest risks that home health care workers and nursing home staff face, however, is the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

If a nursing home worker or home health aid develops a repetitive stress or overexertion injury, a workers compensation lawyer can help to make a claim for benefits. Preventing injuries is always preferred and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced new resources that aims to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Healthcare Workers

Nursing home and residential care workers experience nearly twice the number of injuries and illnesses than construction workers do and have some of the highest rates of non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses of workers in any field.

According to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, musculoskeletal injuries are “the single biggest worker injury in the healthcare sector.”

Healthcare workers frequently suffer:

  • Muscle strains
  • Low back injuries
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Tendinitis

OSHA has indicating that working with home healthcare workers who have real-world experience assisting patients is necessary in order to conduct a hazard assessment and to develop tools for preventing injuries. To prevent injuries will also require commitment of management, the use of appropriate equipment to control hazards, training and technology. Each of these different aspects of an injury-prevention program are outlined in OSHA’s new brochure on Safe Patient Handling.

Unfortunately, efforts towards safe patient handling are undermined by many misconceptions and myths. OSHA tackles some of those myths in the brochure, including the following:

  • Mechanical lifting is not as safe or comfortable. This is a myth because once patients realize mechanical lifting is safer and easier than manual lifting, they frequently accept this as an option. Both workers and patients are better off when a mechanical lift is used.
  • Proper body mechanics can prevent injuries. This is a myth because even the best body mechanics, including the use of black belts, is not an effective way to reduce injury on its own. As OSHA says “there is no such thing as safe manual lifting of a patient.”
  • There’s no need to worry about musculoskeletal injuries if workers seem healthy. This is a myth because manual lifting can result in microtrauma to the spine. While workers don’t always feel these small injuries immediately, the cumulative impact of microtrauma can eventually lead to a debilitating medical problem. Workers who are healthier and stronger may be at the greatest risk since they may frequently be asked to move patients.

Experts recommend that any lifts be limited to 35 pounds or less. Mechanical lift technology should be provided and utilized in order to ensure health workers are not lifting more than they should.

Contact a Providence workers compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 or visit http://www.dgklaw.com to schedule your free consultation.

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