Worker Safety in Hospitals

Source: ijzendoorn - 123RF

Worker Safety
Source: Rui Santos – 123RF

Did you know that, according to OSHA, a hospital is one of the most hazardous places to work? In 2011, U.S. hospitals recorded more than a quarter of a million work-related injuries and illnesses. Almost 7% of full-time hospital employees suffered a work-related injury or illness. That’s about twice the rate for private industry as a whole.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the likelihood of injury or illness resulting in days away from work is higher in hospitals than in construction and manufacturing, two industries usually considered hazardous.

Over 50% of hospital worker injuries resulting in days away from work consist of sprains and strains. In fact, nearly 50% of injuries and illnesses reported in 2011 among nurses and support staff were musculoskeletal disorders. In order of frequency, these disorders are followed by bruises, soreness and pain, fractures, cuts and punctures, and multiple trauma.

Generally, worker hazards at a hospital fall into the following categories:

  • Manual lifting and moving patients and mechanical equipment;
  • Working with sharp instruments;
  • Proximity to potentially contagious patients and blood borne pathogens;
  • Slips, trips, and falls;
  • Working with agitated and combative patients and visitors; and
  • Fatigue and stress (which increase the likelihood of injuries).

Work in hospitals can be dynamic and unpredictable. Workers must be prepared to respond or react to a variety of situations with split-second decisions. In addition to these challenges, hospitals face diverse safety challenges associated with food services, materials handling, maintenance, and cleaning.

OSHA has developed a number of resources for hospitals and their employees to help them understand the problems of worker safety, develop a safety and health management system, and handle patients safely.