While your mind might first jump to a mine or oil rig, OSHA reports that hospitals are the most hazardous place to work – beating out construction sites and manufacturing jobs. In 2020, nursing assistants had the highest number of injuries resulting in time off work, with 96,480 cases, an increase of nearly 250% since last year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care and social assistance workers in 2020 saw a 40.1% increase in the overall number of injury and illness cases. All other industries remained the same as last year, or even decreased. Therefore, the most dangerous job in the country is being a nursing assistant.
Why is Nursing & Healthcare Work So Dangerous?
In addition to the new risk of catching COVID-19, health care workers have always faced a variety of dangers at work. Having to constantly move patients around can be heavy and involve awkward positions like twisting, causing frequent body pain and ergonomic injuries. Health care workers are often exposed to infectious blood and diseases as well, which can result in illness.
Some of the most common injuries that nurses sustain are bodily injuries such as sprains, strains, broken bones, slipped discs, cuts, and bruises. In 2016, 27.7% of nursing injuries requiring time off were due to back injuries. These back injuries occurred at a significantly higher rate than other occupations, due to long periods of standing and heavy lifting required by nurses. Additionally, health care workers often slip or fall due to the condition of the floors and walkways; in 2016, this accounted for 18.4% of injury cases.
Even prior to the pandemic, nurses were getting injured at a proportionately higher rate than other jobs. Data from the BLS provides the following statistics from 2016:
- Nursing injuries occurred at a rate of 53.1 cases per 10,000 full-time employees, compared to the rate of other occupations which was 32.6 cases per the same number of workers.
- The most common event causing injuries was “overexertion and bodily reaction.”
- 27% of all nursing injuries and illnesses occurred to nurses aged 45-54.
- Around half of injured nurses had worked for their employer for at least 5 years.
- 51% of nursing injuries were strains, sprains, or tears.
Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Nurses?
Most employers – in this case hospitals – carry workers’ comp for health care workers, especially due to how dangerous the job is. Workers’ compensation insurance is there so that employees’ injury expenses are covered, and the employer won’t get sued. If the injury qualifies for workers’ comp, the employer will be responsible for covering medical bills, lost wages, and any other related expenses. There is no federal law in place for workers’ compensation, so the exact laws will vary by state. Texas is the only state with no form of workers’ comp requirements.
Despite most employers being required to carry workers’ compensation, that doesn’t mean that every claim will be approved. It can sometimes be a difficult process to appeal a claim and get it approved. The best way to ensure that a nursing injury will be covered by insurance is to be timely following the incident. First the injury needs to be reported to the employer, as soon as possible. Then the injured health care worker should file a claim with their state. Obviously medical attention should be priority number one if the injury is severe.
As important as it is to increase safety measures for nurses, it doesn’t seem to be a top priority. Hospital budgets are already tight, and the job stress leads to a high turnover rate. Until working conditions can be approved, all we can do is make sure nursing injuries are covered by insurance so that our health care workers are taken care of.