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New safety program may help prevent healthcare worker injuries

Healthcare workers in New Jersey and across the U.S. run a higher risk for musculoskeletal disorders than workers in other industries. However, there is a safety program that could help reduce these injuries in the healthcare industry. Called a Safe Patient Handling and Mobility program, it was brought up during the 2019 conference of the American Society of Safety Professionals.

Patient handling can lead to musculoskeletal injuries as healthcare workers struggle to get patients up and transfer them from their beds to a chair or the restroom. The maximum safe weight limit is usually agreed to be 35 pounds for the patient handling process, but lack of nurses and nursing assistants means many workers must handle more than that limit.

With an SPHM program, though, employers can identify these risks and come up with techniques for mitigating them. This could include technology like ceiling-mounted lifts and aids for walking or active standing. A safe healthcare environment could be promoted through the incorporation of ergonomic designs. The program should be integrated with patient-centered care assessments and care planning since this will determine the type of equipment to use.

New Jersey is one of 10 states that require SPHM programs. These programs have been proven to reduce healthcare worker injuries by 50% and lost time from work by 75%.

Healthcare workers who are injured nonetheless may file for workers' compensation benefits. Unlike with a personal injury claim, one does not need to prove that the employer or anyone else was negligent to be eligible for compensation. The benefits will only pay for certain things, though, such as medical expenses, a portion of lost wages and any short- or long-term disability leave, if applicable. Victims who wish to file may want a lawyer, especially if an appeal becomes necessary.

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