In the state of California, working in a healthcare facility such as a hospital or clinic is considered a high-risk job. This is according to a survey carried out by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) which showed that; doctors, nurses, aides, among others face a higher risk of suffering work-related injuries when compared to workers in the manufacturing and construction sectors. Healthcare workers are susceptible to a higher number of injuries since they come into close contact with a lot of different people, machines, and chemicals daily. Here at The Workers Compensation Attorney Group in Orange County, we realize how hazardous it can be for anyone working in the healthcare industry, and that’s why we dedicate our time and resources to help you recover benefits to settle your losses.

Who is a Healthcare Worker?

The state of California identifies healthcare workers as employees in the healthcare field serving as; doctors, nurses, paramedics, home-based care providers, and any medical experts that provide medical aid to the general population. The majority of these employees work in short-staffed environments, making them incapable of handling the numerous medical cases that they receive every day.

Some of the risks that healthcare workers face while on the job include; trips, slips, falls, physical violence, musculoskeletal disorders, and direct contact with sharp objects and different machines. Following the workers' compensation laws of California, every employee in the healthcare industry is eligible for the benefits that are offered via a workers’ compensation claim.

Common Healthcare Worker Injuries Covered by Workers’ Compensation

Healthcare workers are predisposed to different kinds of injuries since the job is very demanding. Some injuries might arise due to; the employer’s negligence, continuous contact with pointed objects, or even the type of patients visiting the health facility. Per OSHA, workers in the healthcare industry face conditions that might bring about the following injuries:

  • Airborne diseases

Healthcare workers are susceptible to contracting different illnesses and infections from their work environment. Germs and viruses transmitted through the air could infect said workers making them sick.

  • Bloodborne diseases

When handling needles and other contaminated sharp medical instruments, medical care workers might contract deadly diseases. Getting in contact with infected bodily fluids could lead to the spread of diseases such as hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), or even HIV/ AIDS.

  • Strains and sprains

These injuries account for more than half of all hospital injuries. Lifting and moving heavier patients without adequate strength could lead to back and joint pains.

  • Herniated disk

Tissue damage in the spinal cord could bring about movement difficulties, pain, weakness, as well as numbness in the affected region. These injuries are usually also attributed to moving an incapacitated patient around.

  • Fractures and broken bones

These kinds of injuries are usually caused by workplace violence, or slip and fall accidents.

  • Brain damage

Slip, trip, and fall accidents at the workplace are the leading cause of brain damage in healthcare facilities.

Common Causes of Healthcare Worker Injuries

Some of the major causes of work-related injuries in the healthcare industry include:

  • Repetitive stress

Following the same routine day-in, day-out at work without taking preventive measures could lead to physical or mental illnesses. In comparison to other employees, healthcare workers are prone to these kinds of injuries, especially nurses, attendants, aides, and orderlies.

  • Slip-and-fall

Most healthcare workers need to move from one place to the next to tend to their patients. Spillage of liquids on the floors of healthcare facilities, however, poses a severe slip-and-fall threat to this simple exercise. A healthcare worker could slip and fall, resulting in serious temporary or permanent injuries.

  • Sharp injuries

Working at a healthcare facility could mean handling needles, razors, scissors, among other pointy medical instruments. Such instruments if handled or disposed of incorrectly could lead to puncture wounds or cuts, some of which could be fatal. Healthcare workers are also at risk of contracting illnesses and infections from these instruments.

  • Understaffing

This affects the majority of hospitals and healthcare facilities in the state of California. The number of resources that are usually allocated to hospitals is not enough to cater to every patient promptly. The pressure to perform faster with limited resources increases stress levels in employees, which in turn is likely to increase the risk of different kinds of mental and physical injuries.

  • Patient handling

Bed-ridden and disabled patients need to be physically moved from time to time. A considerable number of healthcare workers have sustained injuries when trying to lift or reposition these patients. Although there is lift equipment put in place, some workers find them cumbersome and time-consuming to use. Back and foot injuries are some of the common job-related injuries in healthcare providers, caused or aggravated by handling patients.

  • Violence in the workplace

It is not unheard of when healthcare workers get assaulted on the job. This refers to both physical, verbal, and psychological abuse. Some patients could be mentally ill, dangerous criminals or just unsure of their medical condition, and could inflict harm to the medical workers tending to them. At times, a patient’s family members might take out their frustrations on the doctors and nurses treating their sick loved ones.

Filing a California Healthcare Workers’ Compensation Claim

In the event of a job-related accident, healthcare workers in California are provided with two options when filing for a compensation claim. The first option allows you to pursue a workers’ compensation claim that has fixed disability and medical benefits, which means that your compensation benefits package reaches you on time.

The second option allows you to press charges against a third party. In a hospital, numerous factors could lead to injuries, and this option enables you to file a claim attributing your injuries to another party other than your employer. If different factors caused your work-related injuries, the law allows you to pursue third party-compensations; under the condition that you can present evidence of the said third party being involved. Third parties in this situation might include makers of defective medical equipment, third party suppliers, or even patients.

What Benefits are Provided by Workers’ Compensation for Healthcare Workers?

In the state of California, all workers are eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits irrespective of who is to blame for any injuries sustained. This means that, as a healthcare worker operating in California, you are not mandated to show employer negligence or liability for you to receive benefits. This is also known as the no-fault benefits system. All you need to prove is that you sustained the injury in the duration and area of your job duties. This system presents an effective way for you to receive instant compensation if you sustain a job-related injury.

According to California labor laws, each employer is mandated to supply workers’ compensation insurance coverage regardless of the number of workers they have. If you sustain illnesses or injuries while on the job, you are eligible to:

  • Medical benefits

These benefits are meant to cater for all the medical costs related to your injury. They include the total cost of your; prescription medication, medical tests, physical therapy, and doctors’ appointments. Any expense you incur due to your injury is covered, and you are not expected to pay any amount whatsoever. The law might also grant you the option of seeing your doctor, who would then present a written assessment of your well-being.

  • Temporary disability insurance

The state of California provides these benefits to workers who cannot temporarily get back on the job as they recuperate. These benefits are presented in a monetary form with 2/3rds of your total weekly wage paid out twice a week.

  • Permanent disability settlement

You might recover these benefits if you are partially or wholly permanently disabled. These benefits ensure that you receive much more compensation if you sustained a long-term disability. Your disability rating, however, is what will determine some of the benefits you could receive. If you disapprove of the rating awarded to you, the law allows you to contest it. If an insurance company disputes your state of being permanently disabled, it is necessary that you present your case before an administrative hearing.

  • Vocational rehabilitation

Suffering a job-related injury could leave you with a permanent disability, making it impossible to get back to your old job. Your employer could offer you new training for a different position; one that will accommodate your unique condition.

Rights of a California Healthcare Worker

As per California law, every worker is entitled to a secure workplace. Your employer is mandated to provide a place of work that is free from any health and security risks. If you are worried about your safety or that of your fellow worker, you are at liberty to voice your concerns without worry of retaliation. Additionally, as a healthcare worker, you are also entitled to:

  1. Receive training in a language that you can comprehend
  2. Work on apparatuses that are safe to operate
  3. Receive the necessary safety gear including masks and gloves
  4. Receive protection from poisonous substances
  5. Receive an OSHA assessment upon request, and talk to the supervisor
  6. Report any illness or injury, and obtain a copy of your health records
  7. View copies of your workplace illness and injury documents
  8. Assess the records of your workplace illnesses and injuries
  9. Obtain copies of the results of the analysis carried out to find potential risks in the workplace

Filing a Healthcare Workplace Complaint

Following the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act, all employees are entitled to filing a health and safety complaint without having to worry about retaliation from their employer. You can as well request OSHA to inspect your place of work if you believe that a grave risk is imminent, or if you think your employer is not adhering to OSHA standards. You need not know the specific OSHA standard your employer has violated for you to file a complaint. It is advisable to file the complaint as soon as possible following your discovery on the risk at the workplace or employer non-compliance. If found to have violated any OSHA standard, your employer may receive a citation from OSHA for infractions that occur presently or occurred in the previous six (6) months.

OSHA takes every complaint they receive seriously, regardless of whether it is from an employer or an employee. A healthcare worker in California is allowed two types of claims to choose from when filing their grievances. They include;

1)    Health and Safety Complaint

Healthcare workers in California are permitted to file a complaint in confidentiality with OSHA if they believe their working conditions to be unhealthy and unsafe. At the same time, these employees are also asked to take the matter up with their employers first. If this fails and the employer takes no action to subdue the risk, employees can then turn to OSHA.

Filing a Health and Safety Complaint

In the state of California, healthcare workers are presented with three (3) options in which to file a workers’ health and safety complaint. They include:

  1. Via the internet: You could choose to visit OSHA’s website and fill a complaint form online. You need to ensure that you or your employer have provided your signatures before submitting the complaint. This increases the likelihood of OSHA, making an onsite visit. Filing a complaint online while living in a region offering OSHA-approved state plans means that your complaint will be sent on to the fitting state plan for a reply.
  2. Through the mail or fax: OSHA offers the option of having physical mail sent to their offices to any worker who wishes to do so. However, first, you will require a complaint form, which you can obtain either from OSHA's website or from your local OSHA area office. This complaint form is offered in both English and Spanish languages. You are then expected to complete the form and can now choose to either fax or send it through the mail back to your local OSHA area office. Putting your signature or that of your employer on the complaint form is likely to lead to onsite inspections by OSHA. On the complaint form, remember to include your phone number, name, and address for more accessible communication and follow up.
  3. Over the phone: If you prefer real-time interaction or don't want to wait, you have the option of calling your local OSHA area office. The staff at OSHA will listen to your complaint, discuss it with you and answer any questions that you might be having at the time. In case of an emergency, OSHA provides 1-800-321-OSHA as the number to dial.

2)    Indemnity from Employer Retaliation

Your employer might take offense when you file a complaint with OSHA regarding their unsanctioned actions or your unsafe working conditions. They might then proceed to transfer, demote, fire, or even retaliate against you. By doing so, your employer will have violated your rights as an employee, which is against the law. If you think that your employer has violated your rights as an employee in any way, the state of California allows you to file a whistle-blower complaint with OSHA in the preceding thirty (30) days after the supposed retaliation.

Filing a Whistle-Blower Complaint

As a healthcare worker in California, you have every right to file a bigotry complaint if your employer retaliates against you for your choice to play the role of an employee. Check to see if your state offers approved state plans. Section 11(c) of the OSHA act allows employees to file a bigotry complaint with Federal and State OSHA. Regarding the whistle-blower statute that you decide to submit your complaint under, the allocated time for filing will differ with each law. The complaint forms are required to be filed directly with federal OSHA.

The options provided to file your complaint include;

  1. Via the internet: This option allows you to fill out a whistle-blower form online and present it to OSHA. If you live in a state that offers OSHA-approved state plans, your complaint form will be sent forth to the fitting state plan for a reply.
  2. Through the mail or fax: Here, you get the option to either complete a whistle-blower complaint form online which you can then print, or write a letter in your own words re-counting your complaint and use the mail or fax to send it to your local OSHA area office. Details that should not be left out include your name, phone number, fax number, and address, to allow follow up by OSHA staff.
  3. Over the phone: You can decide to call OSHA at your local area offices and talk to their staff. They will converse with you regarding the complaint you have and answer all your questions.

To determine the complaints that require an investigation, OSHA usually interviews every complainant. By providing evidence on the alleged bigotry exhibited by your employer, OSHA will request said employer to restore your earnings, benefits, and position at work.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Healthcare Worker Injury

  • My workplace is not safe; what should I do?

Working in the healthcare industry comes with its fair share of risks, which all healthcare employers and employees experience daily. If you think that your working environment is not safe to operate in, consider filing a complaint with OSHA regarding a dangerous working environment. It would be best if you notified your employer concerning these conditions. If your employer fails to take the necessary action to control the risk and it becomes deadly, you legally have the right to refuse to work in that dangerous environment. 

  • I suffered injuries while on the job, what should I do?

In the case of a work-related injury, you need to call your employer immediately. If they are not available, seek medical aid and call 911 if possible. In California, every employer is required to inform OSHA of a fatality at the workplace within eight (8) hours or twenty-four (24) hours in case of work-related loss of an eye, amputation or in-patient hospitalization.

  • What other hazards do healthcare workers face?

Besides violence in the workplace, ergonomic issues, and infectious diseases, healthcare workers face numerous hazards that are in line with the occupation. Some of these hazards include physical agents, chemicals, materials causing allergic reactions, and hazardous drugs. Several of these hazards are discussed in detail below.

Chemical Hazards

  • Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is mostly used as a sterilant or sanitizer. When mixed with water, it is known as formalin. This chemical is often used in; (1) sterilizing medical equipment, (2) preparing virus-related vaccines, (3) Preserving animal or human remains, and in (4) making tissue adhesive.

  • Ethylene Oxide

This chemical is colorless and exists in a gaseous form at temperatures of 51.30 F and above. When this chemical reaches toxic levels, it smells just like ether. It is mostly used in disinfectants and fumigants. A healthcare worker might be exposed to Ethylene Oxide when they are sterilizing surgical equipment.

  • Glutaraldehyde

At room temperature, glutaraldehyde resembles a slimy colorless liquid that has a pervasive smell. This chemical often requires mixing with water before use. As a healthcare worker, you could be exposed to glutaraldehyde during certain operations like preservation, cold sterilization, and processing x-rays.

Hazardous Drugs

A drug is labeled as dangerous after intensive research shows it to be potentially carcinogenic, toxic to reproduction, or causing organ damage. Exposure of a healthcare worker to hazardous drugs could cause permanent effects, even if the exposure levels are low.

Find a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Specializing in Healthcare Worker Injury Near Me

In the state of California, every healthcare worker is entitled to receiving compensation if they sustain a work-related injury or illness. It is advisable to seek the services of a competent workers’ compensation attorney to help you get your rightful compensation. If you live in or around Orange County, CA, get in touch with our Orange County work injury lawyer at 562-485-9694 and book a no-cost, no-commitment consultation. Our attorneys will walk you through the entire compensation process and offer expert advice to ensure the best possible outcome on your claim.