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Health care workers risk their health to tend to others

A Safe Patient Handling Conference is planned in another state, but nurse aids, nurses, orderlies, physical therapists, occupational therapists and emergency medical technicians in California face similar risks and deserve the same attention. Reportedly health care workers nationwide file more claims for musculoskeletal injuries and chronic back pain than workers in any other industry. Safety authorities say the primary cause for lost workdays and benefits claims is unsafe handling of patients, and this will be the focus of the conference.

High-risk activities that are par for the course for health care workers include repositioning patients in their beds and lifting them from their beds to take them to the showers or help them onto toilets. The workers often have to deal with elderly or obese patients, which exacerbates the risk of injuries. Authorities say teaching health care workers also to look after their own health by using safe lifting techniques is crucial, along with facilities to provide lifting equipment to limit overexertion.

EMTs face as many risks when they lift injured or ill people onto stretchers, place them in ambulances and rush them to the hospital where they must lower them from the ambulance and transfer them onto hospital beds. In many emergencies, these workers must act immediately, often without enough time to wait for a co-worker to help lift a patient. Workers must learn about the availability of lifting equipment, and also the proper way in which to use these aids.

Many health care workers in California are forced by chronic back pain to stop working long before they reach retirement age. However, those who seek medical care before they suffer permanent musculoskeletal damage might extend their careers. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can assist with the navigation of benefits claims that will cover medical expenses and lost wages. Workers whose injuries cause disabilities might receive additional benefits.

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