Throughout the United States, healthcare workers who are injured on the job may file a claim with employer-mandated workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp, as this insurance is commonly referred to, provides financial support for medical expenses and lost wages if an employee should become injured performing his or her work duties. In this article, we will review commonly-seen nursing home workers’ comp claims and how to reduce risk.
Nursing Home Workers’ Comp Claims to Consider
As healthcare workers, such as in hospitals and nursing homes, experience workplace injuries at surprisingly high rates, the role of workers’ comp becomes extremely important. Understanding some of the most common nursing home work comp claims can help manage the expenses associated with these claims. Ultimately, identifying and examining common claims can serve to protect the health and wellbeing of caregivers.
High Injury Rates in the Healthcare Sector
Ask any healthcare professional about workplace injuries, and most will indicate that it is a matter of when, not if, they will become injured on the job. The healthcare profession, especially in understaffed operations like nursing homes and assisted living facilities (ALFs), experiences crushing workloads and significant injury risks.
According to studies compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), occupational injury rates for healthcare workers exceed the rates of any other industry in the United States. This high rate refers specifically to non-fatal workplace injuries. Certain workplace-related injuries in the healthcare profession occur at rates seven times higher than in other industry sectors. With these high rates, it is clear that protecting workers from on-the-job injuries should take precedence. Doing so also helps to manage the costs associated with workers’ comp claims.
Common Employee Injuries in the Nursing Home Environment
In the previous section, we reviewed the alarmingly high rates of non-fatal workplace injuries in the healthcare profession, which includes workers in nursing homes and ALFs. What are some of the most common injuries reported by workers in healthcare facilities? Common injuries include:
- Repetitive stress injuries, including nerve impingements and carpal tunnel syndrome
- Bone fractures
- Slip and fall injuries
- Sprains and strains
- Chronic musculoskeletal pain, particularly in the lower back, spine, and neck
- Slipped or bulging vertebral discs
- Joint displacements and separations
- Needle stick injuries
- Exposure to infectious pathogens through skin contact or inhalation
- Workplace violence, often at the hands of residents or patients
Work in the healthcare industry is filled with daily risks, and these risks are only compounded by the fact that many nursing homes are understaffed. When workers are expected to do more with less, the chance for a severe workplace-related injury grows substantially.
The Financial Toll of Healthcare Worker Injuries
Healthcare facilities across the country have a duty to protect their employees from unsafe workplace conditions. Unfortunately, injuries are not only common in this sector, but they are also varied. In addition to lost productivity, which is on average about 2 million lost work days per year, occupational injuries among healthcare workers is estimated to run in excess of $13 billion per year. With skyrocketing costs associated with workers’ comp claims in nursing homes and ALFs, facility managers are scrambling to find solutions.
Preventing Workplace Injuries: A Safety-Oriented Healthcare Workplace Culture
Injuries in the healthcare field are inevitable, just as they are in any industrial sector. The rates and severity of injuries, however, can be managed through a top-down approach that incorporates all stakeholders. Nursing home facility managers can help to keep workers’ comp claim rates low by implementing safety-oriented programs for healthcare workers. These include:
- Training on safety practices and hazard avoidance.
- Identifying and mitigating workplace hazards, including slip and fall or crushing hazards.
- Investing in specialized patient lifting and handling equipment to reduce injuries for both staff and patients.
- Establishing or improving injury reporting mechanisms, including near-miss incidents.
- Providing wellness programs for stress management like yoga or aerobic exercise, which have been shown to reduce repetitive use and stress-related workplace injuries.
When not managed carefully, workers’ comp claims can quickly grow out of hand, potentially impacting the financial stability of nursing home operations. By understanding common workplace injuries and by implementing preventative practices, nursing home managers can better protect their workers, residents, and financial assets from loss.