The types of injuries faced by workers at a health care facility are so varied, surprising, and, in some cases, shocking. Anyone who works at a hospital or clinic faces the threat of workplace injuries that few people in other occupations can comprehend.
Doctors, nurses, health care aides, therapists, maintenance workers, housekeepers and food service staff all play vital roles in keeping a health care facility operating effectively. But, every day, they face job hazards that may include needle stick injuries, exposure to disease and chemicals and even violent assaults.
Musculoskeletal injuries and viruses
Health care facilities, their administrators and management must make it a priority to protect their respective staff and provide them with the necessary training to prevent or minimize any chance for potential life-changing injuries.
The list of job hazards faced by health care workers and facility staff members includes:
- Musculoskeletal injuries: Nurses and nursing aides often must lift patients to move them from toilets, exam tables, wheelchairs and beds. Such actions may lead to lower back pain, repetitive stress injuries, and stress and damage to the bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves.
- Sharps injuries: Health care workers often handle sharp instruments such as needles and scalpels. A stab wound from them may expose these workers to diseases, infections and plenty of future worries.
- Exposure to drugs and chemicals: Many health care workers must prepare and administer hazardous drugs such as those used to treat cancer, antiviral drugs, bioengineered drugs and hormone agents. Adverse health effects are possible due to exposure. People may suffer from skin rashes, leukemia and other cancers as well as reproductive problems such as infertility and congenital anomalies in the fetus.
- Blood-borne pathogens and viruses: With the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers were much more aware of such dangers. Pathogens that contain disease can be found in blood, saliva and respiratory droplets. Exposure also may come through sharps injuries. The list of illnesses obtained may include hepatitis, influenza, HIV and tuberculosis.
- Violent assaults: Workplace violence is possible, attributed to upset and mentally unstable patients as well as argumentative family members and disgruntled co-workers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 44% of U.S. nurses were victims of physical violence and 68% experienced verbal abuse, according to the American Hospital Association.
Any of these injuries may put health care facility staff members out of work for lengthy periods.
Employer responsibility to keep workers safe
To safely accomplish their duties, workers at health care facilities must receive proper training in matters that include dealing with patients, handling medications and how to operate needed equipment. Hospitals and clinics have the responsibility to do this as their staff faces hazards every day.