Why healthcare workers are at risk of injury
Physician, heal thyself is a proverb worth emulating if we are to have a healthy healthcare workforce. There is no escaping the fact that hospital and medical environments suffer from inherent dangers, but while putting one’s life on the line to save the life of another is a noble objective, the profession would be more attractive without the risks.
The healthcare industry is huge, with settings that include hospitals, outpatient clinics, dental clinics, nursing homes and home health care to name a few. The healthcare and social assistance industry employs approximately 12% of the Australian workforce but accounts for staggering injury rates and close to 16% of serious workers compensation claims. Healthcare workplace injuries include:
- Musculoskeletal injuries
- Slips, trips and falls
- Needlestick injuries
- Injuries caused by workplace violence
- Workplace stress
In addition, healthcare workers navigate a minefield of procedural hazards daily, including bloodborne pathogens, biological hazards, chemical exposure, radioactive material and X-ray hazards.
Healthcare workers compensation claims revealed
A Safe Work Australia study in 2015 revealed that healthcare workers are getting older on average, while the average patient is older, sicker and heavier. Without changes to healthcare standards and strategies, an increase in injuries and compensation claims is inevitable, with statistics revealing a damning picture.
- Body stressing accounts for more than 50% of healthcare workers compensation claims, with injuries commonly associated with lifting people, moving beds and pushing unwieldy trolleys.
- Slips, trips and falls represent close to 20% of claims, with increases impacted by extremely busy high traffic areas.
- Mental/emotional stress accounts for approximately 8% of claims, with more than half the incidents caused by fellow workers and patients.
- Physical assaults account for around 5% of all healthcare workers compensation claims.
If you are injured or fall sick at work, you are entitled to workers compensation on a ‘no fault’ basis. In other words, you and your employer are covered, regardless of who caused the accident or injury. However, the compensation you receive is relative to the evidence you provide, making an investment in the services of highly regarded workers compensation lawyers at Taylor & Scott Lawyers a smart move.
What can healthcare employers do to avoid workplace injuries?
Every employer has a duty of care toward workers and visitors to their premises. As far as reasonably possible, hazards and risks should be mitigated and procedures implemented to minimise the risk of injury. The unhealthy rise in musculoskeletal injuries, for example, can be addressed by employers in ways that include:
1: Training staff in appropriate manual handling procedures
2: Conducting assessment programs for understanding the risk of injury
3: Implementing control measures to mitigate risks
4: Introducing design changes to mitigate risks
5: Monitoring new control measures to ensure they are working
What can healthcare workers do to avoid workplace injuries?
While the onus is on employers to provide a safe working environment, healthcare workers also share the responsibility in a number of ways. In an age where the blame-game results in drawn out and convoluted legal battles, it’s worth knowing healthcare workers’ rights and responsibilities that include:
1: Taking reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of yourself and others
2: Following workplace guidelines, including safe handling of patients and equipment
3: Reporting all risks, hazards and incidents to your supervisor
4: Being free from the influence of alcohol and drugs while at work
Australian States and Territories have various departments overseeing workers compensation claims. In NSW for example, Icare is the insurer and scheme operator and the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) are the regulating authority. In order to maximise your potential payout, It’s worth undertaking a case assessment with a Taylor & Scott Workers Compensation Lawyer, for a number of reasons.
For example, once a person accepts a lump sum payment for a permanent disability injury, they become ineligible to forward a common law claim for additional payment, even if it is necessary for achieving a satisfactory quality of life. There are also times when negotiating with insurers and opposing legal teams is the only way forward, with expert legal backing the best option for achieving optimum workers compensation claim outcomes.