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The risks faced by health care workers

New York residents may not think of nursing as being particularly hazardous, but nursing assistants are injured on the job almost as often as police officers, firefighters and construction workers, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The problem is made more serious by the type of injury often suffered by nurses and medical orderlies. The back injuries and muscle strains suffered while moving heavy patients can lead to long layoffs, and they can also become persistent problems that may end health care careers.

The high rate of injury among health care workers has prompted action in the nation's capital, and proposed federal legislation introduced in December 2015 would require hospitals to follow policies designed to protect workers while patients are being moved. The U.S. Department of Labor would be required to issue a rule, which would also put measures in place to protect nurses who refuse to work in conditions that they believe to be unsafe.

Workplace safety advocates say that action is long overdue. They point out that employers with workers who perform dangerous jobs are usually required to comply with comprehensive regulations and safety standards, but nurses and their assistants are offered little such protection. They also cite statistics that show the number of people performing this kind of work is expected to grow significantly over the next several years.

Nurses and other health care workers who are injured on the job may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. However, the paperwork can be confusing for injured workers not familiar with the process, and they may also be unclear about the type of medical evidence that they are expected to provide. Attorneys with workers' compensation experience can often help injured workers to apply for all of the benefits to which they are entitled.

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