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Medical workers in Missouri are protected against work injuries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the numbers of work-related illnesses and injuries suffered by hospital workers are almost double the national average. Almost 50 percent of the 58,000 injuries suffered by hospital workers in 2013 resulted from overexertion. Missouri nurses and nursing assistants may, however, find comfort in knowing that Missouri state laws regulate hospital worker safety. The regulations require safety initiatives to be adopted by medical facilities, including the installation of lifting equipment and proper training in the use of the equipment.

The safe patient handling regulations came into effect in 2011, but the safety of medical personnel received little consideration prior to that date. Because most of the injuries that are suffered cause health deterioration over time, many older workers live with the consequences of injuries, such as back and leg injuries, that had developed over years of overexertion. Some workers report that they had to retire from their positions prematurely because of the extent of the damage done.

Patient lifting is one of the activities that causes the majority of injuries. It is reported that repeated lifting of weights in excess of 35 pounds exceeds the biochemical capabilities of a worker. Research shows that an eight-hour shift requires a nurse to lift about 1.8 tons, while the weight lifted by technicians or nursing assistants in a shift can be up to five tons. It is, therefore, surprising that the regulations were only instituted four years ago.

Nevertheless, an emergency situation, such as a patient falling to the floor, may force a hospital worker to lift a heavy patient without the help of lifting equipment. The fall may have occurred in an area where no overhead lifting equipment is available, and fetching mobile equipment may be too time-consuming. Similarly, many other injuries may continue to occur and may lead to expensive medical costs and extended periods away from work. Fortunately, medical workers in Missouri are entitled to pursue workers' compensation benefits that typically cover medical expenses and some level of lost wages.

Source: stltoday.com, "Hospitals say efforts improving to prevent nurses' injuries", Michele Munz, Aug. 30, 2015

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