When we're sick or injured, the last thing we're thinking about is other people's problems. Unfortunately, the very people who take care of us when we feel the worst are at a surprisingly high risk of workplace accidents and occupational illnesses. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the injury and illness rate among hospital workers are nearly twice as high as the average rate for private industry workers — and the agency will be stepping up enforcement.
In 2013, for example, there were about 6.4 job-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time workers at hospitals. The problem doesn't end at the hospital door, though — the illness and injury rate among workers in nursing homes and long-term care facilities is also among the highest in the nation. Worse, OSHA says that virtually all of those illnesses and accidents are preventable.
What's causing so many healthcare workers trouble? OSHA focuses on 5 things
Nurses and nursing assistants, especially, face a high risk of injury when moving patients. They move unconscious patients from bed to stretcher before surgery; adjust the position of immobilized patients in bed so they don't suffer skin and circulatory issues; and lift, stretch and move patients for a variety of treatments. As a result, they're at a higher risk of back injuries and musculoskeletal disorders.
In a new effort to reduce the injury rate among healthcare workers, OSHA has also identified four other common hazards at hospitals and care facilities:
- Exposure to bloodborne pathogens
- Tuberculosis risk
- Slip and trip hazards
- Workplace violence
"Workers who take care of us when we are sick or hurt should not be at such high risk for injuries," says OSHA's assistant secretary. "That simply is not right."