Musculoskeletal injuries are some of the most common ailments present among healthcare workers today. These are caused by repetitive motions and frequent accidents, such as slips, trips and falls. To further complicate matters, employees who are subject to such an injury tend to spend a significant time away from work, increasing related workers' compensation insurance costs and other expenses.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, musculoskeletal disorder cases made up 34 percent of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2012, the latest data available. During that year, the median days spent out of work due to an injury increased compared to 2011, now at 12 days. Of the most common jobs afflicted, nursing assistants were part of six professions that comprised more than 25 percent of all cases. A registered nurse is also one occupation that is highly susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries.
OSHA looks for a solution
Due to the frequency and duration of a musculoskeletal injury, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is keen on finding a viable solution to prevent such accidents from happening in the healthcare industry. In order to do that, OSHA has recently announced a new resource targeting this specific segment.
"Musculoskeletal injuries are the single biggest worker injury in the healthcare sector," said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. "This new resource will help make employers and workers aware of the activities that pose the greatest hazards to workers who care for residents in nursing homes and residential care industries and what can be done to decrease risks to these workers."
Common injuries that fall under the musculoskeletal category include muscle strains, rotator cuff issues and problems with the lower back, OSHA explained. The government organization pointed to one main risk factor in the healthcare industry: patient handling. When workers deal directly with patients, they open themselves up to the type of repetitive motions that can lead to musculoskeletal injuries.
Therefore, OSHA recommended that those in the healthcare industry create a safe patient handling program to reduce the likelihood of injury. The online resource is designed to shed light on some key steps, including hazard assessment, new technology and workplace commitment. Focusing on addressing the inherent dangers of the healthcare industry may reduce accidents and ensure that all workers are safe each day on the job.