According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurses suffer occupational injuries three times more often than construction workers. Each year, healthcare workers suffer more than 653,000 injuries. There are several hazards that healthcare workers face that are unique to their industry. Of course, there are hazards that are relevant in most every industry as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common hazards for healthcare workers include:
· Sharps (Needles)
· Chemical Exposure
· Infectious Agents
· Physical Hazards
These hazards result in potentially serious injuries and illnesses among healthcare workers. The most common injuries and illnesses reported by healthcare workers include:
· Needle sticks – In healthcare settings, needles may be contaminated with blood borne diseases and infectious agents. This puts healthcare workers at risk for blood borne diseases including Hepatitis B and C and AIDS.
· Chemical exposure – Healthcare workers often use chemicals to treat, sterilize and preserve samples. Some of the most common chemicals include aerosolized medications, anesthetic gas, bleach, ethylene oxide, toluene and formaldehyde.
· Infectious Agents – Healthcare environments put workers at risk of contracting infectious diseases brought in by patients. Healthcare workers are vulnerable to infections including the flu, Ebola, Tuberculosis, respiratory syndromes and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
· Physical injuries – Healthcare workers are particularly at risk to suffering back injuries, which cost an estimated $7 billion each year. Healthcare workers also suffer overexertion injuries and repetitive stress injuries, such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel, and musculoskeletal disorders.
· Stress – Healthcare workers often work long hours and difficult shifts. This coupled with the nature of their work can lead to fatigue, stress and anxiety. Many healthcare workers report feeling overwhelmed, which can impact performance and safety for themselves and patients.
· Violence – One of the less common but very real hazards for healthcare workers is violence. Hospitals especially are vulnerable to patients who use alcohol or drugs, or who have mental disabilities. Hospitals also treat criminal offenders, who may lash out at healthcare workers.
It is important that healthcare workers understand the risks and know how to get help. Workers who suffer any of these injuries or illnesses may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.