• Feb
    09
    Posted in:
    Posted by: Jarve Kaplan Granato Starr

    Hospital Workers Being Injured While Trying to Lift Obese Patients

    Every work environment has its own unique risks. Highway workers risk being struck by an out-of-control or speeding vehicle, or a driver who is texting instead of ignoring safety signs. Construction workers risk falling or being struck by falling objects, being electrocuted or struck by construction vehicles. Truck drivers are at risk for horrific accidents that are either a result of their own carelessness, road or weather conditions, or other drivers. Those who work in hospital settings are at risk from slippery floors, needle sticks, exposure to communicable diseases, and more. One of the workplace accidents that is on the rise in these healthcare settings is that hospital workers being injured while trying to lift obese patients. Though most hospitals are required to take measures to prevent these types of injuries, far too many are noncompliant, and as a result there has been a rise in serious back injuries.

    According to Bridget Devane, public policy director of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union, hospitals that do not take action and provide both the training and equipment that is needed are risking their employees’ health. Speaking of the equipment that each hospital is supposed to have available, she says, “If it’s not easily accessible, you’ll have to lift the patient yourself.” Without the harnesses or special chairs that are designed to provide hospital workers with help lifting a patient out of bed or to or from the bathroom, nurses and aides can end up hurting themselves – and if they fall while assisting the patient there is risk to the patient as well.

    Having the equipment or special lifting teams available to address the challenge is more than just an accommodation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can impose fines and penalties on facilities that do not provide their employees with these essential tools, and that is exactly what happened to the Virtua Memorial Hospital in South Jersey.  The facility had to pay OSHA over $12,000 and agree to address their shortcomings after employees there filed a report and the dangerous conditions were investigated.

    Among the actions Virtua had to take were providing patient handling equipment for caregivers, as well as special training for all employees.  These measures will likely have a direct benefit for the hospital’s staff, which has to deal directly with the growing obesity epidemic that is being seen throughout the United States. Patients average weight has increased dramatically over the last several years, and at the same time the average age of the nursing staff has also gone up.  Both of these factors are contributing to a high incidence of hospital workplace accidents.

    Employees who are injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits including medical benefits, lost wages in the form of temporary disability, and even permanent disability payments if they are deemed unable to return to work. If you have been hurt in a workplace accident and need information about your rights, contact the attorneys at Jarve, Kaplan, Granato & Starr, LLC to set up an appointment.

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