Back injuries are a serious risk for healthcare workers in the U.S. Back injuries are a type of musculoskeletal disorder work injury. These injuries are defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as injuries to the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints and spinal discs.
Healthcare workers are more prone to back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders. More than 50 percent of nurses, aides and assistants' musculoskeletal injuries were reported as back injuries. Most back injuries happen to healthcare workers when they are handling patients, especially when they are lifting, transferring or repositioning patients.
What are the risk factors for back injuries and musculoskeletal disorders? Healthcare workers face a higher risk of suffering a back injury when they transfer patients on a daily basis. The risk for injury increases when there are staffing shortages or workers have too many patients.
Most back injuries that affect healthcare workers are caused by repetitive trauma instead of a single incident. Healthcare workers face an increased risk of suffering back injuries when they repeat the same physical tasks every day. Most back injuries occur over a longer amount of time and many don't show symptoms until the injury is severe and even disabling.
Employers are required to provide a safe working environment for their employees. OSHA does list back injuries caused from lifting patients as a workplace hazard and has previously fined companies for occupational musculoskeletal hazards.
Healthcare workers who have suffered back injuries may be entitled to workers' compensation under Colorado law. Workers who have been injured should consult a workers' compensation attorney to discuss their case.
Source: Premier, "Back Injury Prevention: Safe Patient Handling," Jan. 30, 2013
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