Those in California who work in the healthcare industry likely experience back pain, at least from time to time. Moving patients after a healthcare worker has been on his or her feet for an extended period of time often leads to a painful back injury, tendonitis or rotator cuff injury. OSHA recently issued a new brochure regarding the prevention of what is arguably the leading cause of injury to workers in the healthcare industry.

Of course, healthcare workers are exposed to numerous hazards in addition to those prompted by the manual movement of patients. However, it is estimated that this is the largest cause of injury in the field. Therefore, it deserves a great deal of attention.

Many hospitals now provide mechanical lifts for the use of healthcare workers. Nevertheless, they may currently be underused in the industry. This could be because the equipment is not conveniently located, and it may be faster to round up a couple of coworkers to move the patient. Some medical facilities may believe that it is less expensive to have workers manually move patients instead of investing in mechanical equipment. However, they fail to consider the costs of absenteeism, workers’ compensation costs and related business expenses.

Even when the equipment is available and convenient to use, the probability of suffering a back injury does not necessarily disappear. Other factors could also lead to a potentially debilitating injury. California healthcare workers who are hurt on-the-job are typically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical costs and wages lost during recovery, but in some cases, there may not be a complete recovery. A person may be unable to return to work and could lose some enjoyment of his or her life. The workers’ compensation system is designed to address these important issues and provide extended benefits to those that qualify.

Source: safety.blr.com, “Back injuries in healthcare: A $20 billion problem“, , June 25, 2014