Patient-related safety risks for workers in medical settings

California workers in myriad industries across the state know well that lifting and repositioning objects of material weight poses distinct injury and accident risks.

And workers' compensation claims relating to on-the-job back and other bodily injuries suffered from lifting activities emphatically confirm that knowledge.

Many of our readers might immediately and instinctively think of the construction industry as a work realm where lifting risks are especially outsized, and that is certainly true.

Another work sphere, too, though, that might not come so readily to mind in connection with lifting-related injury risks, rivals the construction field for adverse lifting outcomes.

That is the medical industry, where hospital workers routinely lift, mobilize, reposition and transfer patients.

Unquestionably, that can be perilous work, and those not trained to do it properly can suffer from a wide assortment of serious injuries.

California regulatory authorities know that well. The state has a "safe patient-handling standard," which was recently augmented by a Cal/OSHA-authored fact sheet that provides detailed information to health care units and workers across the state who interact with patients.

The depth and breadth of information provided underscores the injury concerns posed for health workers lifting and moving patients. The patient-handling regulation applies to the bulk of California care units that are considered part of a "general acute care hospital."

Translated, that means most hospitals across the state.

The bottom line: If you're a hospital visitor who chances to see a group of workers lifting a patient and transferring him or her from one bed to another, know that such an action is anything but a spontaneous and casual effort.

If it is done by the book, it is a well-considered and collective team effort, with involved employees having undergone special training and periodic refresher initiatives to ensure that they are doing things correctly and in an optimally safe manner.

In California, even workers who aren't authorized to handle patients must receive so-called "awareness training" that enables them to recognize patient needs and contact appropriate parties for assistance.

Many health care workers are exposed to a variety of accident and injury risks throughout their work days. Taking due precautions is a vitally important aspect of their jobs, with their safety being a top priority for every conscientious employer.

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