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Long-term disability - The risks nurses and healthcare workers face daily

If you are a nurse or healthcare worker in Ontario, you likely face many safety and health hazards in your occupation. Unfortunately, some of these cause healthcare workers to be unable to continue performing their duties for a significant period of time. In these cases, receiving long-term disability benefits can be imperative to their financial futures. Yet, making a successful claim can be challenging.

Numerous physical and psychological hazards can put nurses at risk of illness and injury that result in long-term sick leaves.

Typical hazards for workers in the health care industry

As a health care worker, you likely already face high levels of work-related stress. You may be able to limit the impact of these hazards by understanding the following typical causes of work-related illness and injury and by taking appropriate precautions:

  • Physical hazards: Various dangerous situations can be present in health care facilities, many of which can lead to physical injuries. Spills and random objects where you have to move about - often at a high pace - can cause slip-and-fall accidents. Also, you may be at risk of objects falling onto you. Sharp objects can result in cuts and stabs, and sterilizing equipment pose risks of burning or scalding. Radiation threats from radioisotopes and x-rays can pose additional risks to your health. TIP: Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Ergonomic hazards: There may be many situations in which you must bend, stretch, pull and lift weights in awkward positions. Such actions may place extreme physical demands on the muscles, tendons and other soft tissues of your body. Long periods of standing and walking can also exacerbate already-taxed body parts. TIP: Take breaks, avoid overextending and get help for loads you cannot reasonably manage by yourself.
  • Psychological hazards: Some aspects of nursing can cause psychological problems. Repeated witnessing of traumatic events and injuries are only part of it. Other causes may come from exposure to violence, having to deal with difficult patients on your own, and occasions in which you have to make stressful and challenging decisions in an instant. TIP: Take time to disconnect, assess your emotional state and find ways to refresh yourself mentally on a regular basis.
  • Chemical hazards: Disinfecting, cleaning and sterilizing may expose you to various hazardous chemicals. Furthermore, anesthetic gases, medical waste, medication, drugs and allergies to products such as latex can pose additional hazards. TIP: Make it a habit to always follow proper procedures and prescribed precautions.
  • Biological hazards: The threat of contracting infectious and contagious diseases will be ever-present, some of which can result from needle stick injuries. Others sources of contractible illness include air-borne threats such as tuberculosis, blood-borne illnesses like hepatitis B and C as well as AIDS, and physically transmitted diseases such as clostridium difficile. Dangerous organisms that are drug resistant pose additional hazards, and the need for constant hand washing can result in dermatitis. TIP: Use of all applicable safety equipment. A single exception could expose you to danger.

Where to turn for help and support

All of the above hazards are potential long-term disability risks. If you are unable to return to your job duties after suffering any form of work-related harm, you likely have many questions and concerns about the process of filing for your LTD benefits.

There is often confusion and a lack of consistency from insurance companies regarding the interpretation of "total disability" within these insurance policies. If you have already submitted a claim that you believe was wrongfully denied by the insurance company, help is available. An experienced lawyer can carefully evaluate your unique circumstances and then fight to significantly increase your odds of receiving the maximum amount of benefits to which you are entitled.

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