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Ebola Crisis Puts the Focus On Workplace Safety for Healthcare Workers, Nurses

The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus is raising questions about whether or not the proper precautious are in place to protect healthcare workers, including nurses, who are often front and center when it comes to taking care of patients with infectious diseases. In the U.S., nurses Amber Joy Vinson and Nina Pham were infected with Ebola while working at a hospital. They both treated Thomas Eric Duncan, who is the first person to die in from the virus in this country.

Fortunately, both women received the necessary medical care and they no longer have the disease. Early diagnosis of their condition may have helped.

Last week, over 200 nurses gathered outside the National Nurses United headquarters in California to call for tighter protections for healthcare workers from Ebola. The NNU believes that Vincent and Pham were exposed to the Ebola virus because the necessary safety controls were not set up at the hospital where they worked. In a recent survey, four out of five nurses said that have not been instructed on how to handle patients with Ebola.

State laws typically do not allow workers who get sick or hurt on the job to sue their employer. However, employees should be entitled to work injury benefits. In Massachusetts, please contact Altman & Altman. One of our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers would be happy to help you determine if you should get legal representation to protect your rights and ensure that you get all of the benefits that you are owed.

The Ebola virus is transmissible through bodily fluids. However, the contagion cannot occur unless those infected are exhibiting symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, a raised rash, red eyes stomach pain, coughing, chest pain, bruising, bleeding, and stomach pain.

To date, the Ebola virus has killed at least 5,000 people. This latest outbreak originated in West Africa.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has regulations for how to protect workers from infectious disease, including its Bloodborne Pathogen Standard. This standard mandates that hospitals provide nurses with the necessary protective equipment so that potentially infectious material don’t make contact with workers’ clothes, face, skin, or mucous membranes.

OSHA also has requirements for respiratory protections from airborne particles that might be carrying the virus, as well as standards for protective equipment. The rules apply to anyone that could come in contact with an infections disease while on the job, including nurses, lab workers, airline flight crews, morticians, and customs agents. However, due to budget cuts and inadequate political support, these regulations are not properly enforced.

According to OSHA, hospitals are one of the most dangerous places to work. Yet inspections of hospitals to assess their working conditions have declined.

For every 100 nursing staffers, 7.6 a year are subject to nonfatal illness and injury on the job. The nursing profession is dominated by women. 90% of nurses are female.

Other common health risks for nurses on the job included musculoskeletal injuries from lifting patients, contagion by blood, physical assault, and verbal abuse. Nursing aides and assistants are also at risks of injury and illness.

Our Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers represent workers and their families throughout the state.

These Rules Can Protect Doctors and Nurses From Ebola-If They’re Followed, Mother Jones, October 24, 2014

As U. S. Hospitals Prepare Ebola Response, Nurses Must Have A Seat At The Table, cognoscenti.wbur.org, October 30, 2014

Ebola Fast Facts, CNN, October 27, 2014

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