Even though it seems like a safe and profitable profession, the medical industry is one of the sectors that record many work-related injuries in Long Beach, CA. There is no doubt healthcare employees like nurses and doctors look forward to a comfortable working environment and stable salaries. While this is usually the case, they should not be ignorant of the dangers that come with working in this field, which expose them to frequent injuries. Having said this, health care employees who suffer on-the-job injuries should know they have the right to be compensated. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group has experienced workers’ compensation attorneys who will help employees to recover benefits that will pay for the damages they incur.

What Could Cause an Injury for a Healthcare Worker?

If you are an employee of the healthcare sector, you are exposed to multiple on-job risks each day. According to research, healthcare employees are at high risk of contracting illnesses and on-job non-fatal injuries as compared to other sectors. Some of the dangers you are exposed to include fires, latex allergy, toxic exposure, back injuries, and stress. The healthcare industry has different types of jobs and depending on your job, you could sustain an injury due to a different cause. Causes of injury include;

Repetitive stress

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes that healthcare employees are seven times at risk of suffering from orthopedic injuries as compared to employees in other industries. To be precise, employees who are most likely to suffer these injuries include nurses, nurse aides, orderlies, and attendants.

Handling patients

You may suffer a serious injury when attempting to manually lift a patient in the process of moving him/her from one place to another. Additionally, you may sustain an injury when attempting to reposition those bed-ridden patients. This could be due to morbid obesity or the patient’s general obesity. Injuries resulting from patient handling have also been on the rise in Long Beach.

Sharp injuries

It is possible you could sustain cuts or wounds from the needles or other sharp medical equipment that are mandatory for you to handle routinely.

Accidents of slip-and-fall

These types of accidents occur through liquid spills on hospital or nursing home floors, causing a slippery surface could cause a person to slip. These accidents can lead to various injuries of the head, ankles, feet, and knees. These injuries can cause permanent or temporary disabilities.

Workplace Violence

Apart from the common injury types healthcare employees face while working, there have been cases of them facing high risks of workplace violence. Violence may be caused by the patients’ family members who direct their anger at the doctors or nurses who care for their sick loved ones or patients who don’t feel well and are scared of what will happen to them. Additionally, healthcare employees who care for the mentally sick or violent criminal patients are at high risk of facing workplace violence.

What Types of Injuries can a Healthcare Worker Be Compensated For?

Here are a number of the most common injuries you can suffer while in the line of duty at a healthcare facility and for which you will be compensated;

Head injuries

In a slip-and-fall accident, you can suffer a traumatic brain injury which may include a concussion. A head injury could also lead to damaged brain tissues and cells that can result in loss of skills. Healthcare workers are encouraged to seek immediate medical attention for a head injury before it results in permanent damage. An injury can be life-altering, therefore, you should seek immediate attention. The symptoms you could look for to know if you have a head injury include headache, nausea, confusion, difficulty in remembering events, and dizziness. It is best for you to have a medical test to know how severe the injury is. External head injuries are identified through scratches, bruises, open scars or bleeding.

Neck & back injuries

Working in a healthcare sector can be physically demanding and thus, increasing the danger of incapacitating your back and neck. These injuries may lead to chronic aches and disabilities. A neck injury can also lead to brain trauma like whiplash. Most of the back injuries in the healthcare sector are as a result of patient handling and the frequency with which workers transfer patients. Types of neck and back injuries include strain on the lower back, muscle spasms, fractured vertebrae, pinched nerves, injured spinal code, etc.

Note that in California, you are not supposed to be disciplined by your employer if you decline to lift or move a patient because you are concerned about your safety. OSHA requires the following for employers which could curb neck and back injuries;

  • They should maintain a policy of handling the patients safely at any time and for all patient-care units
  • Conduct training for all healthcare employees which will address the proper way of using lifting equipment and devices, the five body exposure areas which include bariatric, vertical, lateral, repositioning, and ambulation, and how to use lifting equipment to safely handle the patients
  • Avail qualified lift teams and support staff with experience in appropriate lifting procedures in every general critical care health facility

Bone fractures

Broken or fractured bone injuries are often a result of a trip or a slip-and-fall accident. Workplace violence could also result in injuries. You could also sustain fractured bones in the process of transferring patients.

Herniated disk

This refers to a condition that occurs when the protective pads between the spinal bones bulge, rupture, or split. When this happens, they put a lot of pressure on the spinal cord leading to pain, weakness, or numbness of the injured disk.

Infectious diseases

Handling of patients means you sometimes have to come into contact with bodily fluids as well as dealing with patients that are infected. This increases the risk of contracting the same disease. The diseases you can be exposed to include airborne and blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS.

Sprains & strains

According to reports by OSHA, these types of injuries are the most incurred among employees in healthcare facilities.

In California, you have two alternatives you can use in filing for workers’ compensation as a health care employee. One way is for you to file for a compensation claim and receive fixed disability and medical benefits. This enables you to get your entitled benefits on time. Another alternative is you file for a lawsuit; suing the third party. As we have stated earlier, there are several aspects of a healthcare facility setting that can cause an injury. This means you are eligible to file for a compensation claim lawsuit in case another party was involved in your work-related injury. In situations where your injury was as a result of different factors, you can file for a third-party compensation claim as long as you have proof it is their fault.

However, for you to qualify to file for a compensation claim, you must be permanently employed by the facility. California law does not allow subcontractors or freelancers to be compensated if they are injured at work. Also, you must have sustained the injury at work or during a work-related activity and the employer must have valid compensation insurance for workers.

If you don’t have these qualifications, then you automatically qualify for the second alternative; filing a lawsuit. Though it is a long process, you may get a larger compensation if the case is successful. The good thing about filing a lawsuit is that you can demand to be compensated for your suffering, pain, and the damages you incurred. You can contact your attorney to find out which option is best for you before embarking on any of the processes. In the event you suffer a work-related injury, you should notify your employer immediately and seek medical treatment so you get the medical documentation.

Healthcare Employees and the California Workers’ Compensation Laws

California laws on workers’ compensation use the no-fault system to guide the regulations of filing for a compensation claim. This permits health care workers to file for compensation claims without having to prove their employer’s fault. The system enables the employees to immediately access their compensation benefits in case of an on-the-job injury.

If you sustain an on-the-job injury, then you are eligible for filing a compensation claim. California laws dictate employees should be provided with medical and disability benefits in case of an injury at the place of work. Thus, all the health facilities should provide their workers with compensation insurance regardless of the number of workers. You will be eligible for a number of benefits as per the workers’ compensation insurance;

Medical benefits. These include treatment costs, doctor’s appointments, and medical bills. In most cases, you will be attended to by your private doctor who provides a written assessment of your progress.

Permanent disability compensation settlement. In case you have a long-lasting disability, this will ensure you get quite a larger compensation.

Disability benefits. You will be compensated with this if you are injured to an extent you cannot carry out tasks and you must have days off to recover. Disability benefits provide two-thirds of your pay in a two weeks’ payment system. The purpose is to relieve you of financial stress during recovery. The disability benefits you receive depend on the rating of the disability. If you do not agree with how your disability is rated, you can challenge it. Some employers can refute the fact you are permanently disabled in an attempt to deny you the required benefits. When this happens, you can file for a lawsuit before the administrative officers.

Vocational rehabilitation. In cases where you sustained a permanent disability as a result of the on-the-job injury, you may be enrolled to a vocational rehabilitation center for job training so you are able to do other duties at the workplace apart from your normal ones.

Note that if you are permanently or temporarily disabled due to a work-related injury, you can claim for workplace accommodation. The benefits and accommodations continue all through your disability up to the time you recover. Additionally, employers are not supposed to discriminate against you if you have an existing condition or a condition developed due to work stress.

In the event you become physically or mentally incapacitated while doing a task relating to your job, you can file for a workers’ compensation claim entitling you to receive reasonable accommodation in case you want to continue working as you recover. 

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)

Many of the injuries in the healthcare sector are characterized as musculoskeletal disorders because they are as a result of doing physically strenuous jobs that involve muscles, nerves, ligaments, body joints, tendons and parts that support the neck, the back, and the limbs, or as a result of slip and fall accidents that can result in broken/fractured bones or any other injuries.

MSDs occur to workers who overwork their bodies’ repair and rehabilitation system. Doctors, paramedics, nurses and other employees of the healthcare facilities have to work for long shifts and perform different medical and clerical tasks. When you do this for a long period of time, you can develop the following;

  • Tension neck disorder
  • The spinal cord tissues may be damaged
  • Back pain
  • Repetitive stress injury
  • Cubicle tunnel disorder
  • Tendonitis
  • Carpal tunnel disorder

As OSHA explains, nurses, nurse aides and other hospital attendants who handle patients have had the highest number of musculoskeletal disorder cases. To address these cases as well as the root cause of these claims, OSHA has set forth regulations and protocols that enable healthcare facilities to strive towards creating a safe working environment for employees. Additionally, The Hospital Patient and Healthcare Worker Injury Protection Act was included into the Labor Code of California State which requires workers of healthcare facilities to adhere to procedures that will minimize injuries or those that lift and transfer patients from place to place.

Having an MSD may lead to long or short-term complications which could hinder you from doing tasks. According to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals suffering from musculoskeletal disorders may qualify to file for reasonable accommodation claims.

Health Program and OSHA Safety

OSHA is committed to providing a safe working environment for all healthcare employees in the state of California. It does this by enforcing workplace rules and regulations as well as establishing working routines that are safe to employees. To achieve a safer working environment, OSHA advocates for a strong system of management at healthcare facilities, device programs to prevent or control work-related hazards, and schedule inspections at the workplace. Additionally, it encourages employers of the healthcare sector to:

  • Conduct frequent workplace inspections to ensure safe working conditions are maintained and any risks discovered are dealt with. Workers are also required to report any risks to the management. In fact, OSHA gives you the liberty to file a safety and health complaint requesting for an inspection of your workplace if you have a reason to believe you are facing serious danger or if your employer is not maintaining OSHA standards
  • Have safety programs in the workplace so the workers know how to deal with work-related hazards or dangerous situations
  • Conduct training to workers on how to prevent injuries and also on appropriate patient lifting procedures. Workers need to be trained on how to lift, transfer, or reposition patients and be provided with proper patient lifting equipment
  • Avail ergonomics professionals who are capable of providing non stop training about the possible risk factors at the workplace environment. The trainers have to be specific when providing guidelines for lifting patients to minimize strain and sprain injuries
  • Develop a tracking program that will be able to detect all workplace accidents. This will help determine on-the-job injury patterns and come up with effective solutions

The Role of FEHA and ADA in Addressing Healthcare Workers’ Injuries

FEHA and ADA dictate that permanently or temporarily disabled healthcare workers are eligible for reasonable accommodation at the workplace. Apart from protecting workers against discrimination, these Acts established that every employer in healthcare facilities has the duty to provide a realistic accommodation to every disabled worker. Failure to provide disabled workers with accommodations may hinder them from doing the duties as their jobs demand which is considered as discrimination.

As ADA and FEHA guidelines provide, if you are a disabled healthcare worker, then you are eligible for these reasonable accommodations:

  • The liberty to break from work if necessary. If you have a carpal tunnel disorder or a back pain, for example, this may need you to break from work more often to stretch your back and lower your physical stress level
  • You should have the freedom to request ergonomics equipment that helps ease your disability. This could be, among others, chairs and equipment that minimize physical stress
  • You should be capable of leaving work at your pleasure or absenting yourself from work without your employer restricting you. This is because, in your condition, you have mental or physical rehabilitation programs which you should attend. Thus, your employer can’t restrict you from attending programs that will help you recover. In most cases, finding a working timetable that suits you and your employer is the most convenient solution

Healthcare employers are under the obligation of providing these accommodations to their employees except if they can provide proof the company would face a financial burden which will lead to its instability. In most cases, you do not need to file a claim since an employer will provide this accommodation as an act of good faith. However, if the employer feels reluctant to do this, you have the right to file for a claim and demand he or she complies.

Ergonomics and How to Handle and Transfer Patients Safely

Ergonomics refer to deploying the employee to the appropriate kind of operation. Thus, apart from adhering to guidelines by OSHA and ADA, healthcare employers and workers need to practice and implement ergonomics safety procedures. If you are physically disabled or you have a low body mass, placing you to do jobs that involve physical strength would be inappropriate and against the ergonomics principles. In most cases, your doctor is the one who determines the type of work you can do while recovering and if you need a change to the assignments of your work schedule. All this is compiled in a medical report that shows your response to treatment.

Ergonomics should consider how diverse equipment could be used in lifting heavy objects. Employers should put measures in place to train employees on how to use diverse equipment so they can protect themselves from on-the-job stress.

The good news is healthcare companies in California have followed OSHA’s rules regulation on how to maintain a working environment that is safe. This, however, doesn’t mean work-related injuries do not occur. Despite the efforts, there are factors that are still not addressed because of understaffing and the ever-busy working environment. Healthcare workers who get injured due to working environments are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and realistic accommodations from employers. 

Finding a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Near Me

If you are a healthcare worker working in Long Beach, CA and have suffered an on-the-job injury, you should know you have the right to compensation benefits. A qualified attorney from The Workers Compensation Attorney Group will help you recover the benefits you are entitled to. Additionally, we advocate for those workers whose employers have denied them benefits by filing a lawsuit against them on their behalf and ensure all the evidence is ready to build a strong case. Call our Long Beach workers compensation attorney at 714-716-5933 and tell us about your case. We will help you take the appropriate steps in ensuring you are fully compensated.