Union stewards in a Victoria hospital notice high rate of injuries among cardiac sonographers. A joint union-employer committee is looking to address the problem.
Vancouver (13 March 2015) — Diagnostic Medical Sonographers—workers who specialize in the use of imaging devices to produce diagnostic images, scans and videos—have always been at risk for developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
Those injuries include tendonitis, bursitis and muscle and nerve damage to hands, arms, elbows, shoulders, neck and back.
High rate of injuries noted by union stewards
Health Sciences Association of British Columbia (HSABC/NUPGE) union stewards in Victoria had noticed that injuries among sonographers working in the Echocardiology Labs at the Royal Jubilee and Victoria General Hospitals were on the rise—even when compared to the already high injury rates experienced in sonography occupations generally. As a result, a plan was put in place to consult with those workers, gather evidence and bring recommendations for action forward to the employer.
Almost all cardiac sonographers in labs are working in pain
Through a survey and follow-up meetings with members, the union found that almost all sonographers in the Echo Labs at RJH and VGH were working in pain: 85% had sought medical attention recently and 75% felt they had not received adequate ergonomic training. Most identified a need to build better rest, recovery and exercise time into their schedules, but said that due to increasing volume and complexity of cardiac scans, there wasn't enough time available to engage in those injury prevention measures.
Joint committee working on new policy document
HSABC/NUPGE proposed the formation of a union-employer working group to gather evidence related to injuries and ergonomic best practices and to facilitate changes in the RJH and VGH Echo Labs to reduce sonographer injuries. Island Health and Echocardiology management agreed to the working group, which includes four HSABC/NUPGE representatives. They are meeting monthly and are working on a new Ergonomics Policy document and recommendations for injury identification and reduction.
HSABC/NUPGE Safety Steward Carol Petersen, co-chair of the Echo Lab Working Group, describes the project this way: "I've witnessed cardiac sonographers developing permanent disabilities simply by doing their jobs. I feel a strong desire to have these highly trained (and in very short supply) professionals not get injured at work. The evolving and increasingly technical demands of their work is directly related to their injuries. It's important for the union to be proactive in finding ways to reduce these injuries. With the direct involvement of members in this project, we hope to benefit sonographers not just at this site, but province-wide."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE