Healthcare workers, social services and residential treatment personnel are currently at high risk of injury in the workplace, both from those they care for and due to exposure to the new coronavirus. Work injury can result from this exposure to the new coronavirus, and from the stress related to both exposure and workplace dynamics.
In the years spanning 2011-2013, between 70-74% of assaults in the workplace occurred in healthcare and social services settings. For healthcare workers, assault injuries represented about 10% of injuries that required days away from work, compared to a low 3% of all private sector employees. And, while healthcare workers account for 20% of all workplace injuries, they make up 50% of victims of workplace assaults. On-the-job risks faced by these workers are no doubt in a heightened state during the time of COVID-19.
Incidents of workplace violence given the most public media attention have historically centered on workplace homicides, with more recent attention given to negligence. While workplace homicides account for the minority of incidents, the remainder of violent incidents in the workplace often result in non-fatal, but serious injuries. Workplace setting heavily impacts the factors that put workers at risk of being victim to workplace violence. The best work injury lawyers know that registered nurses, nurse practitioners, technicians, therapists, emergency medical care personnel, physicians, pharmacists, physicians’ assistants, care providers and aides, and any support staff who come into contact with patients and clients receiving care are all at higher risk of work-related injury.
Today, exposure to viral infection naturally exacerbates organizational risk factors of workplace violence like understaffing, overcrowding, and long patient wait times. While COVID-19 lawsuits are on the rise among impacted workers, states are having to determine whether the virus qualifies as an “occupational disease” or an “ordinary disease of life.” But for healthcare, social services and care facility workers, coronavirus infection may more easily meet the criteria of an occupational illness due to how they likely contracted the disease. But more so, risk of work injury is magnified for these workers.
Healthcare and social services workers face additional risk of injury through transporting patients or those with a history of violence or criminal activity. Nursing home residents aren’t the only ones carrying high risks of injury due to possible neglect and compromised immunities, nursing home and healthcare workers themselves are placed in compromising positions with lack of adequate personal protection equipment, understaffing, and frustrated family members of patients and residents affected by coronavirus.