Tag Archives: Chemical Exposure

Improper Body Mechanics While Lifting Far From Only Cause Of Nursing Injuries

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

A commenter on our firm’s Facebook page stated the use of proper body mechanics will prevent nurses from getting injured. There is some truth to that statement, but there are many ways, probably not limited to this list, that nurses can get injured that aren’t related to lifting at all. Here a few I’ve encountered recently:

  1. Inadequate staffing – There is a strong correlation between staffing levels and nursing injuries. Nurses, especially CNAs, may be forced to lift or move patients on their own because of inadequate staffing or lack of equipment. Nurses may also be forced to prevent patients from suddenly falling. Use of proper lifting techniques may not be possible in such situations.
  2. Patient attacks – Studies show patient attacks on nurses are on upswing. I see a lot of this in nurses that work in mental or behavioral health.  Even they aren’t nurses, many direct care workers and human services technicians who work in mental and behavioral health are vulnerable to patient or client attack. It’s hard to argue a patient attack is the fault of the nurse
  3. Slips and falls – Slip and falls are a common type of work injury. I represented a nurse working at a dialysis clinic who injured their back when they slipped in pool of urine.
  4. Environmental and chemical exposures – In rural areas, many nursing or medical facilities are in older buildings that are vulnerable to mold and other environmental exposure. If you work in a sick building, it’s hard to argue that’s your fault.

Even if you use proper technique, repetitive heavy lifting can still cause strain and can be disabling in some instances. Nursing personnel are particularly vulnerable to these types of injuries.

I want to make one thing crystal clear: whether a nurse or any other employee is injured because of improper lifting technique THOSE INJURIES ARE STILL COVERED BY WORKERS COMPENSATION! (most of the time) In exchange for no-fault compensation, employees give up the right to sue their employer for negligence. While this might not seem like a grand bargain to a worker who was hurt to no fault of their own, that compromise is the cornerstone of workers compensation.

While the idea of no-fault compensation for work injuries is a winner in a court of law, the idea is more controversial in the court of public opinion as expressed on social media. There is an idea out there that filing a workers’ compensation claim is “milking the system” and that you certainly shouldn’t file a claim if you are at-fault for the injury. Statements that nursing injuries can be avoided, if nurses just use proper lifting techniques is consistent with that line of thinking.

A lot of hostility to those who bring work injury claims and their attorneys stems from concepts like “personal responsibility.” But when a nurse is hurt on the job because of understaffing, slipping on urine on the floor or a toxic building, the employee isn’t fully able to hold their employer responsible for the full extent of their harms even if the employer is fully responsible for the harm.

There is also the assumption that workers compensation claims are fraudulent. But would it be fair to assume that all nursing homes defraud Medicare and Medicaid just because one chain of homes in Florida defrauded the government $1 billion? No, it wouldn’t and the same is true for workers’ compensation claims. Ultimately entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits is determined in court where employees are subject to medical examination from doctors picked by insurance companies. Injured workers are also subject to written and oral questioning from insurance company lawyers. Employees usually have formidable barriers to win compensation in a disputed workers’ compensation case, so the idea that fraudulent claims run rampant is absurd.

Chemical Exposure: Devastating Consequences

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

Chemical exposure in the workplace can have an insidious–yet devasating–effect on a worker.  In a wide-ranging article, the New York Times presented an in-depth view of chemical exposure at furniture factories in North Carolina: “As OSHA Emphasizes Safety, Long-Term Health Risks Fester” The article focused on the questionable ability of OSHA to regulate workplace chemicals, as well as the personal (and neurological) toll caused by such exposure.

Somewhat absent from the discussion was a focus on workers’ compensation benefits for these workers.  Occupational exposure is not limited to repetitive back injuries or other orthopedic conditions.  While soemtimes more difficult to detect or pinpoint, exposure to serious chemicals in the workplace can result in health consequences for the exposed worker.  In Wisconsin, for example, an injured worker can bring a claim for the medical effects caused by exposure to workplace chemicals.  These occupational exposure claims ,if supported by a medical physician, entitle the injured worker to benefits under the Wisconsin worker’s compensation act.  Pinpointing the precise chemcial causing the exposure can be difficult, but a worker can attempt to obtain the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) from the employer that identifies chemicals/toxins being used.  Presenting that information to a qualified physician can assist in determining causation.

In many cases, a worker can experience a permanent sensitization to certain chemicals–precluding the ability to continue working at the same employer or facility.  In these scenarios, a worker may have the right to bring a claim for a loss of earning capacity or even be retrained into a new field that avoids the exposure.