National Safety Month: Care Workers Have Right to Safe Workplace
June is celebrated as National Safety Month. As we emphasize the safety of nursing home residents on the blog each week, this also feels like an excellent opportunity to talk about the struggles nursing home employees can face when overexerted, working on demanding schedules with less staff and performing care duties for violent residents who require greater services. These workers can also become too easily hurt by excessive lifting, lowering, pushing, and pulling while caring for residents because of a lack in injury prevention training and poor enforcement of safe workplace policies.
Nursing homes must follow OSHA standards and provide workers with an environment that does not have any known hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury. Some of the frequent complaints nursing home workers have of the safety and injury risks related to their job include:
- Demand and overexertion due to understaffing
- Safe patient handling (view Illinois legislation on this topic here)
- Lack of training, equipment, and ergonomic resources
- Exposure to hazardous materials and dangerous drugs (including those used for cancer chemotherapy, antiviral drugs, hormones, some bioengineered drugs, and other miscellaneous drugs)
- Prevention and control of contagious diseases
- Workplace violence
- Slips, trips, and falls
Work injury complaints can come from any nursing home employee but certified nursing assistants, nurses, food service or janitorial staff, physical or occupational therapists, maintenance or groundskeepers are most likely to be injured on the job.
Understaffed Nursing Homes Put Employees at Risk of Personal Injury and Residents Are More Likely to Be Neglected
According to the National Safety Council, overexertion causes 35 percent of all work-related injuries and is the No. 1 reason for lost work days. Most nursing home employees become overexerted because of understaffing, an all too real occurrence in America’s long-term care settings. In Chicago, at least a fourth of area nursing homes meet minimum staffing requirements already set out in state law.
We understand that in many cases, it is the nursing home owners and administrators, not the employees, who are to blame for a poor work environment. Choosing to operate at minimal staffing levels and with unrealistic budgets are sure ways to increase personal profits, but it’s the overworked and underappreciated employees, as well as the residents, who pay for it.
Nursing Home Workers Have Rights and Are Protected
If you or your coworkers are concerned about conditions at the care facility where you work, consulting an experienced attorney can help you understand your options and provide you with the support needed to ensure a safe environment for both workers and residents. There are options for you in terms of reporting a dangerous workplace and being protected as a whistleblower. Specifically, Whistleblower Protections Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act says employees may not be retaliated against for reporting a work-related injury, including reporting potential hazards or illnesses (29 U.S.C. 660(c)).
Nursing Home Employee Protection Attorneys
It is crucial that you are protected if you are seeking to report an unsafe work environment. At Levin & Perconti, we have the experience necessary to ensure that you are. Request a free consultation today so that we can get started helping you. Contact the attorneys of Levin & Perconti at 1-877-374-1417 or by completing our online case evaluation form for a confidential meeting.
Also read: List of 22 Seriously Under-Performing Nursing Homes in Illinois Released Publicly for First Time