Friday, September 24, 2010

Home Health Care Workers and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Our office has represented several home health care workers for a variety of injuries, including, most recently, a low back injury resulting in surgery, a broken ear drum resulting from an assault, a broken leg resulting from a fall down some stairs, Hepatitis C due to exposure from a client, and a torn rotator cuff from lifting a client.

One thing that we see far too often in handing Minnesota workers compensation cases for injured home health care workers and personal care attendants, is poor handling of the situation on behalf of the employer. In fact, upon receipt of our letter of representation, one employer called and left me a message on my voicemail advising me that she was firing the worker for talking to a lawyer. Bad move on her part, and she left the proverbial “smoking gun” evidence on my voicemail. Not all home health care employers behave this way, but for some reason, it seems to be more prevalent in this field.

I can’t stress enough how many of these workers fall through the cracks of the workers’ compensation system. Too many employers of personal care attendants and home health care workers do not report their injuries, and take inappropriate retaliatory actions against them when they do report them. I would recommend to any Minnesota home health care worker who is injured at work to speak with a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure that their rights are protected.

According to the CDC, in 2007, there were 896,800 home health care workers. Amazingly, among those healthcare workers, there were 27,400 injuries reported. It’s anyone’s guess as to how many injuries were not reported. Some of the injuries resulted from unintentional needlesticks, latex allergies, and violence. The most common injuries, however, were sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries related to lifting and moving patients. The rate of patient lifting injuries in 2007 among healthcare workers was 20.5 per 10,000.

Unfortunately, persons with mobility problems are often not furnished with lifting equipment or adjustable beds. Moreover, nurses, aides, hospice care workers, and other in-home care providers typically work in the client’s home alone. Moving patients by themselves, in cramped quarters, and without lifting equipment is an injury waiting to happen. In fact, research indicates that assistive devices should be used to lift more than 35 pounds of a patient’s weight.

Some examples of ergonomic assistive devices to reduce the incidence of overexertion and musculoskeletal injuries among home healthcare providers include hoists, rolling toileting and showering chairs, grab bars, adjustable beds, raised toilet seats, and slip sheets.

Reducing musculoskeletal injuries involves ergonomic planning to make it physically easier for in-home health care providers to do their jobs. Employers may wish to consult with professional in patient care to evaluate whether and when assistive devices should be used. They should also provide ergonomics training for providers, evaluate each patient-care plan to determine whether ergonomic assistive devices are needed, and reassess the training, the care plan, and the assistive devices to determine their effectiveness.

In order to avoid injuries, home healthcare providers should use ergonomic devices when they are available to avoid manual patient handling, and to use proper body mechanics when manual patient handling is necessary.

Home health care workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured in the course and scope of their employment. These benefits include medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanency benefits, and rehabilitation benefits. If you are a home health care worker who sustains an injury on the job, make sure you get the benefits you are entitled to.

For a free, no-obligation with one of our Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Visit us at for more information about Minnesota Workers' Compensation.
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