Work-related injuries are a common hazard of the nursing profession. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the rate of overexertion injuries for hospital workers is twice the national average and three times the national average for nursing home workers. Sprains and strains, including back and neck injuries, are the most common incidents resulting in time out of work.

If you work as a nurse, take these steps to protect yourself from a debilitating injury at work.

Use appropriate equipment

Take advantage of lift devices and transfer equipment whenever you have to lift something heavy at work. Ask your supervisor for help if you do not have access to a lift and you have to move a heavy patient.

Identify potential hazards

Liquid spills and wet floors can be disastrous in a hospital environment. Be aware of dangerous conditions, and notify the proper personnel right away. Remove clutter and other items that create a fall risk from walkways, offices and nurse stations. Wear comfortable non-slip shoes to work to reduce your risk of falls.

Pay attention to ergonomics

Arrange your work desk so that you have a comfortable seated position with straight posture. Switch tasks frequently so that you do not spend too much time hunched over a desk. Performing repetitive actions can lead to muscle strain and overexertion. Educate yourself on the safest way to lift and move a patient. Resources are available from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or you can request training from your department head.

Ask for assistance

If you need to complete a move or task that requires two staff members, request assistance whenever possible. By the same token, make yourself available to help your colleagues when needed to help create a workplace culture of safety.

Whether you experience an acute workplace injury such as a fall or a chronic injury associated with overexertion at work, let your supervisor know right away. You can file a workers’ compensation claim to cover the cost of a workplace injury, including medical bills and lost wages.