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Health care workers on the front line of workplace hazards

Hospitals are sanctuaries of healing for patients. For health care workers, though, they too often are the sites of major illnesses and injuries.

Health care workers confront multiple hazards on the job every day. The risks range from short-term illnesses to crippling injuries. At worst, a job injury can shorten their careers and threaten their lives.

Health care workers face risks

Construction and manufacturing often top the list of the most dangerous industries for workers. However, believe it or not, the health care and social assistance industry is more dangerous.

The industry recorded 582,800 cases of work-related injuries and illnesses in 2017. Manufacturing came in second, with 153,900 fewer cases.

For example, nursing assistants are at great risk for musculoskeletal disorders. Their rate of disorders was 166.3 per 10,000 workers, compared to the average rate for all workers of 30.5.

Among the other common dangers for health care workers are:

  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Chemical exposure
  • Drug exposure
  • Respiratory hazards
  • Ergonomic issues
  • Laser hazards
  • Workplace violence
  • Radioactive and X-ray exposure

The risks extend to other hospital personnel, too. Potential victims range from maintenance workers and housekeepers to food service and administrative staff.

Health care workers have rights

Health care workers are like any other worker. They have a reasonable expectation for a safe working environment and have the same basic legal rights:

  • Receiving proper job training
  • Receiving information and training about potential hazards
  • Filing a complaint requesting workplace inspections
  • Reporting safety concerns without the fear of retaliation
  • Working with safe machinery
  • Having access to safety gear
  • Getting protection from toxic chemicals

Health care workers must protect themselves

Caring for others is a noble profession, but working conditions are rarely ideal. Accidents are an unfortunate part of the job, too.

Sick and injured patients need the professionalism of health care workers. When health care workers are the victims, they also need professional support.