Our healthcare workers are on the front lines of some of the most important challenges in modern history. If you work in the healthcare industry, chances are you know how easy it is to suffer from an injury or illness related to your job. What may come as an unpleasant surprise is that working at a factory or construction site would be safer than your current job in the healthcare field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overexertion, exposure to chemicals, and other hazards that nurses and others in the healthcare industry face each day can cause serious injuries and illnesses, requiring medical treatment and time missed from work to allow you to recover. You may have options to recover the costs and damages caused by an injury occurring on the job.
Types of hazards and injury risks confronting health care workers
Anyone working at a hospital, clinic, or other types of health care facilities faces a number of hazards that could cause injury or illness, including:
- Assaults by patients and their families: Health care workers are the victims of 75% of all assaults occurring in the workplace.
- Exposure to infectious illnesses: Workers in the healthcare industry may be exposed to MRSA, hepatitis, HIV, and other transmittable diseases when caring for patients.
- Exposure to radiation: Doctors, nurses, and technicians working in radiology departments or facilities may be exposed to levels of radiation, presenting a health risk.
- Exposure to chemicals: Products used to sterilize equipment and rooms, as well as drugs used in chemotherapy, may pose serious risks to health care workers handling them.
- Allergic reactions: For example, a health care worker may develop an allergy to the latex used in the gloves they routinely wear. Reactions may range from a rash to a severe, life-threatening condition requiring immediate emergency care.
- Overexertion: Lifting patients, maneuvering heavy medical equipment, and other tasks that health care works perform on a daily basis may cause strains and sprains, requiring medical treatment, physical therapy and an extended recovery period during which the injured person cannot work.
Needles and other sharp instruments used throughout the healthcare industry pose a risk of workers suffering cuts or puncture wounds. Even worse than the wound may be the risk of exposure to a blood-borne disease if the instrument had been previously used on a patient.
Workers’ compensation for health care workers
If you work for a hospital, nursing home, physician’s office, an agency providing in-home health care services, or another employer in the healthcare industry, a work-related injury may entitle you to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Oregon, for example, requires most employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees.
You should contact your employer or your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier to give notice of an injury or illness that you believe may be related to your job. For example, if you suffer a puncture wound while at work at a medical facility in Bend while treating a patient, the medical care that you require would be available through workers’ compensation. Your benefits would include time-loss payments to compensate you for being out of work due to the injury. If you work a second job, you may also be entitled to time-loss compensation because of being unable to work at the second job.
Workers’ compensation may not be your only source to recover damages due to a job-related injury. Although workers’ compensation laws prevent you from suing your employer or coworkers, you can sue other parties who may be responsible for causing the injury to occur. For example, if exposure to dangerous levels of radiation is due to a defect in a piece of equipment, you may have the right to sue the manufacturer of the equipment under product liability law. After an assault by a patient or a member of the patient’s family, you may have the right to file a lawsuit against the person for the injuries caused by the attack.
Injured health care workers need legal advice
If you work as a nurse, physician, technician, therapist, or another job in the health care industry, it is important to know your rights when an injury or illness happens at work. A consultation with a Bend attorney with experience handling workers’ compensation claims and third-party lawsuits on behalf of injured workers can offer options and guidance about how to recover damages and compensation.