We all know that any type of accident can happen unexpectedly. However, each variety of job is more likely to be prone to a particular range of injuries. Our clients in the health care professions most often tell us of the following injuries:
- Animal bites. Veterinarians and their assistants are most at risk from animal bites and scratches in the course of their workdays. The risk of attacks by even normally docile pets seems so obvious that it actually works against the interests of the vet. Courts have ruled that, as part of their jobs, veterinarians knowingly undertake the risk of injury, and therefore they cannot sue the owner of a dog or other pet if they are injured in the course of their duties.
- Burns. Health care workers face multiple risks from burns and electrical injuries. Autoclaves and other sterilization devices can expose a worker to direct heat, steam, or radiant heat. The temperatures don’t have to be absurdly hot, either: there is sufficient risk from steam tables and hot spilled food for hospital cafeteria employees. The availability of pressurized oxygen in many nursing home, hospital, and clinic environments means the risk of explosive fires is always present. Additionally, some laboratories have flammable volatile liquids that can catch fire, or acids and caustic alkalis that can inflict chemical burns. All of these injuries can lead to scars, permanent disfigurement, and lasting disabilities.
- Cumulative trauma injuries. When the body routinely is required to exert force in a particular position or with the same movements, the repeated stress of the movement can lead to painful inflammation and eventually serious injury. Such repetitive trauma injuries are common among health care workers. Stretching and lifting can lead to various forms of tendinitis and epicondylitis affecting the elbows, arms, and shoulders. Repetitive stress can also trigger bursitis of the hip, shoulder, or elbow. The classic example of repetitive stress disorder, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), was once uncommon among health care workers. Now, with the constant growth of electronic medical record and pervasive keyboarding and data entry tasks, CTS has become a frequent complaint of health care workers needing workers’ compensation benefits.
- Fall injuries. Slips and trips leading to fall injuries are the second most common cause of lost-workday injuries in hospitals, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The result is broken bones, dislocated joints, sprained ankles, bruises, torn ligaments, and even serious head injuries. Slippery materials on the floor are the primary hazards leading to health care worker falls, but falls may also be caused by ice and snow at building entrances; damaged or uneven flooring; poor illumination in storerooms and closets; and lack of adequate handrails in hallways and stairs.
- Infectious diseases and environmental chemicals. Health care workers are our first-line responders to emerging medical threats. Especially in the wake of the 2009 H1N1 bird flu scare, some people have begun to pay attention to the dangers that health care workers face. “A major issue of concern is the risk posed to health care workers and emergency responders exposed to a novel influenza virus, and other infectious agents as well, in the absence of an OSHA standard that would protect workers from exposure,” says the AFL-CIO report Death on the Job. But serious infections and occupational diseases are risks faced daily by employees in hospitals, labs, and doctors offices. These workers are regularly exposed to drug-resistant Clostridium difficile and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), hepatitis C, meningitis, and other virulent pathogens. In addition, there are risks for cancer and radiation sickness from cumulative exposure to X-ray sources, diagnostic imaging systems, and nuclear therapy, and dental workers can face serious complications from long-term exposure to nitrous oxide.
- Knee and back injuries. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “Healthcare workers often experience musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) at a rate exceeding that of workers in construction, mining, and manufacturing.” Back injuries are probably the most prominent of the many bone, muscle, and joint injuries affecting Pennsylvania medical workers. Lifting, moving, and repositioning patients can cause repeated trauma to the spine and its muscles, and catching a patient to prevent a sudden fall can inflict acute damage to the back. Repeated movements and awkward postures in some job functions, and poor ergonomic design in the workplace can also lead to damage to knee and elbow joints, foot problems, and worsening of arthritis. Finally, lifting heavy equipment and supplies from shelves can cause damage to shoulders and the upper arms.
- Repetitive motion injuries. Frequently making the same motion with arms, hands, or legs can lead to repetitive stress injuries in nerves and muscle tissue. This hazard is especially common if the motion is one that twists the body or limbs in an unusual or cramped position, one requiring maintaining a tight and precise grip for a period of time, or one that involves maneuvering heavy weights. Examples include rotator cuff injuries from lifting patients; carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel injuries from maintaining electronic records; and dental hygienist tendinitis.
Health Care Employees Injured in PA should contact a workers compensation lawyer today to discuss their injury and see if they qualify for workers compensation benefits.