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Health care leads to more workplace injuries than construction

Health care workers in Pennsylvania face a significantly elevated risk of workplace injuries and illnesses when compared to other professionals. Too many health care organizations fail to understand these risks, allowing their employees to suffer workers' injuries from lifting, needle sticks and a variety of other causes. These employers need a wake-up call to prevent ongoing workplace injuries at their hospitals, clinics and home-care facilities.

Injuries and illnesses at hospitals eclipse those experienced by construction workers, manufacturing employees and general industry workers. In fact, health care workers are among the most vulnerable for a workplace accident, with 157.5 day-away-from-work cases per 10,000 employees as of 2011. Construction workers only saw 147.4 such cases per 10,000 employees. Hospitals and other health care organizations have made marginal gains in worker safety, but the improvements are modest compared to other industries.

Health care workers are more likely to put their patients' needs ahead of their own, often prioritizing patient safety over their own safe work environment. This can lead to a higher workplace accident rate, as hospital worker have an unusual set of challenges. Not only are hospital workers required to shift and move heavy patients throughout the day; they are also exposed to potentially deadly pathogens, and they often have to deal with patients who are distraught or afflicted with mental health conditions. Managing unpredictable patients is just one element that can create a more difficult working environment.

Lifting and moving patients can be some of the most dangerous tasks performed by today's health care workers. The vast majority of time-off injuries are caused by strains, sprains and other similar injuries, many of which occur while moving patients or large pieces of medical equipment. Repetitive motion injuries can also play a role in this injury rate. Health care workers deserve to receive compensation for their medical expenses for strains and sprains, which can cause them to lose important work time. Even though overexertion may seem like a minor issue, health care workers should advocate for their own welfare by demanding workers' compensation for musculoskeletal disorders developed on the job.

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