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Nurses suffer high injury rates but receive little federal help

Nurses in Colorado may be at a higher risk for arm and back injuries than workers in any other field. Some people might think of construction as a field where people are frequently injured, but medical workers suffer many injuries due to having to move and lift patients.

Unfortunately, there is little protection for these workers despite the fact that when equipment was installed to do the lifting for the nurses, injuries dropped by 40 percent in the VA hospital system and by 80 percent at a hospital chain in Florida. Furthermore, some suggest that regulations have failed to protect nurses. A 2000 ruling by the Occupational Safety and Health would have required employers whose employees suffered repeated ergonomic injuries to make their workplaces safer, but this was overturned by Congress a few months later. While the ruling made special mention of hospital workers, it would have applied to a number of workplaces.

In the absence of a federal law protecting workers, states have tried to implement some, but few statutes have mad success. Opponents argue that the regulations are too costly. However, the costs for workers are high in the current system. Many nurses must leave their careers early due to these injuries, and they may be unable to perform simple daily tasks such as housework or picking up their children.

Whether an individual is a nurse with injuries from lifting patients, an office worker with a repetitive stress injury or a factory worker hurt by machinery, workers should check their eligibility for workers' compensation. They may file for compensation whether they are responsible for the accident or not. An attorney may be helpful in filling out the paperwork and might be able to help with any necessary appeals.

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