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Nursing and residential care staff face high rate of back injuries

When people think about what jobs might lead to the most on-the-job injuries, the first ones to pop in their heads most likely are jobs in the construction industry or mining industry. However, in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who work as nursing home or residential caregivers faced the highest rate of injury or illness at work. One of the most common injuries they sustained was a back injury—either when lifting or moving patients or from overexertion.

Proper lifting techniques

Because nursing care is leading to so many back injuries, more and more, nurses, nursing assistants and personal caregivers practice good lifting techniques. These include the following:

  1. Get close to the patient before you lift, keeping them close to your center of gravity.
  2. Widen your leg stance for better balance.
  3. Use your knees, not your back, to lift.
  4. Get help when you need it.

However, even with those techniques, nurses and caregivers still face back injuries. The repetition of lifting patients puts extra strain on their backs and spines, making it more likely they will injure a disk.

Team lifting

For added safety, many nursing homes, hospitals and residential care centers now require multiple staff members to help lift and move patients. Yet, even that practice still leaves added strain on employees’ backs and has a risk of injury if team members distribute a patient’s weight differently and end up overcompensating for someone else.

Mechanical lift-assist equipment

As a result, hospitals and nursing care facilities have added mechanical-lift assist equipment. This equipment does the lifting for staff members, reducing the strain on caregivers’ backs. While installation of the equipment is expensive, it can cut down on workers’ compensation claims—saving costs for employers—and also reduce the number of employees missing work to recover from back injuries.

If you work in a hospital, nursing home or residential care facility, know that if you do injure your back at work, you most likely can receive workers’ compensation benefits. In Missouri, any employer with five or more employees must have workers’ compensation coverage. Injured employees also must report their injury within 30 days. Consulting an attorney is another good step—to ensure you follow the claim process correctly and receive the benefits you are eligible for.