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Patients: Not the only ones in hospitals with injuries

New Jersey hospitals can be extremely busy places. Medical professionals and other staff members rush to perform tasks and respond to patient emergencies. Visitors stop by daily, sometimes more than once, to see sick friends and relatives.

Housekeeping duties within these bustling environments are expected to be performed regularly, thoroughly and efficiently. Despite the attention to cleanliness, hazardous conditions may exist that can and do cause trip-and-fall and slip-and-fall accidents among health care workers.

Hospital workers in 2009 missed work due to slip, trip and fall accidents at a rate that was astronomically higher than for all other non-public employees. The overall incidence rate was about 20 injuries for every 10,000 workers. In hospitals, the rate was more than 38 injuries per 10,000 employees, a 90 percent difference!

Hospital staff slips, trips and falls were the No. 2 reason for work-loss injuries. Employees most often suffered injuries from the knees down like dislocations, sprains and fractures. The main reason was slippery surfaces.

Wet floors, unsecured floor mats and grease or fluid spills were among common hazards employees encountered within the hospital. Snow and ice accumulation caused slips and falls at entrances, in parking areas and on external stairs and walkways. Other injuries included falls from heights, like stepladders in storage areas and trips over obstacles piled in work areas and hospital rooms.

A considerable number of these hospital areas are accessible by visitors who could also meet with an unexpected and preventable injury. Employer workers' compensation insurance covers on-the-job injuries suffered by the medical staff, but who pays the bills when a visitor slips and falls on hospital property?

Premises liability lawsuits give injured visitors the opportunity to recover damages from negligent property owners or operators, including hospitals. Damages are dependent upon proof of negligence, like a failure to remove slippery substances in a timely fashion or post warning signs for unavoidable hazards.

Source: Department of Health and Human Services, "Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention for Healthcare Workers," accessed April. 07, 2015

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