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Oklahoma health care workers face high risks of injury

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has identified the health care industry as the leading source of reported workplace injuries, even compared to other hazardous occupations like oil and gas extraction or construction. Seeking solutions, especially for what has been labeled an epidemic of injuries among nurses, OSHA regulators will be focusing investigations on hospitals and residential care facilities.

Common injuries in health care include musculoskeletal disorders, exposure to tuberculosis or bloodborne pathogens, violence and slips and falls. Musculoskeletal injuries have been increasing as nurses and other staff members must cope with a growing population of overweight and obese people. Often, health care workers have no equipment to lift patients, and they must physically move people with their own hands.

According to researchers, injuries attributed to moving patients could be reduced if facilities invested in special lifting equipment like ceiling hoists and transfer slings. When the Veterans Health Administration added this equipment throughout its system, lifting injuries went down among its workers by 40 percent on average. As OSHA steps up its investigations of facilities with high accident rates, it plans to check if appropriate lifting equipment is available for workers.

A job environment with poor workplace safety, like insufficient equipment or a lack of worker training, could result in a worker being injured. A person who was hurt on the job has the workers' compensation system to turn to for benefits. These benefits can be collected regardless of any safety issues or negligence of an employer.

However, the injured worker will in most cases give up any right to sue an employer upon accepting the benefits. Consulting with an attorney after a workplace accident could help people in this type of a situation to make an informed decision.

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