The healthcare industry faces significant challenges and risks as it delivers care to those who need it most. Healthcare workers experience high rates of injury; in fact, nurses and paraprofessionals have injury rates higher than in dangerous industry categories like commercial logging and mining. Among healthcare workers in assisted living facilities, repetitive stress injuries dominate the landscape, negatively affecting the lives and safety of both workers and residents alike. Assisted living facility insurance helps to mitigate some of the risks associated with workplace injuries, but facilities across the country need to focus on eliminating the hazards that lead to repetitive stress injuries, thereby saving on expensive claims and lost productivity.
Injury Risks in the Healthcare Field
The healthcare profession is physically demanding, often requiring backbreaking labor to provide care for patients. Long hours and insufficient staffing contribute to the risks in healthcare settings like assisted living facilities. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), non-fatal occupational injury rates for healthcare workers exceed any other industry. The CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have responded to these excessively high injury rates by publishing safety guidelines for healthcare professionals and staff.
Patient repositioning and transfer tasks are some of the biggest risks caregivers face in their daily duties; these tasks account for a sizeable percentage of injury claims. In an industry research study conducted by OSHA, it was discovered that workers in healthcare settings experience musculoskeletal and repetitive-stress injury rates seven times higher than in other professions. Common injuries include:
- Sprains and strains
- Joint displacement/separation
- Slipped vertebral discs
- Chronic musculoskeletal pain
- Bone fractures
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and related nerve impingements
Even the implementation of technologies like computerized records or patient tracking systems without considering the ergonomic impacts on those who will be using this equipment has led to a rise in repetitive use injuries.
Financial Impacts and Risks of Healthcare Workplace Injuries
What do these frightening injury levels mean for the healthcare industry? In a study completed in 2011, it was estimated that occupational injuries among healthcare workers resulted in over $13 billion in expenses and approximately two million lost work days. Patients are at risk as well; injured healthcare personnel mean even shorter staffing in facilities, which may result in neglect and medical errors. Seniors forced to fend for themselves in the absence of adequate staff may also become injured through repetitive stresses or slip and fall incidents. The risks to facility staff and residents cannot be overstated, and while assisted living facility insurance covers some of the expenses associated with those risks, skyrocketing insurance costs are driving up overhead expenses across the board, further complicating an already complex industry sector.
Reducing Injury Rates in the Healthcare Sector
In any industry, risk management begins with a careful and thorough look at working conditions, paying particular attention to those conditions that may pose hazards to employees. In the healthcare field, hazardous conditions and high-intensity workloads have contributed to the staggering number of workplace injuries. Healthcare facilities have begun to implement several strategies for combatting high injury rates, including training and retraining staff, investing in specialized safety equipment, and fostering a safety-oriented culture throughout the organization. Assisted living facility insurance should be considered only one part of a comprehensive risk management scheme, which must include a focus on preventing occupational injuries wherever and whenever possible. By reducing injuries, claim rates and insurance costs will also be reduced. Ultimately, both staff and patients can benefit from improved safety, helping healthcare professionals to continue providing the attentive and compassionate care their patients deserve.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.