Healthcare workers engage in a profession that presents unique and serious hazards. There are many occupational risks associated with healthcare that may qualify these workers for workers’ compensation.
Healthcare and hazards
Healthcare involves providing health services to individuals. Care takes place in many environments such as hospitals, clinics, dentists’ offices, out-patient surgery centers, nursing homes and birthing centers. These services are also provided in many ways such as emergency care and home healthcare.
Healthcare workers face dangers that are not typically found in other occupations such as bloodborne pathogens, biological hazards, chemical and drug exposures, waste anesthetic gas exposures and respiratory hazards. Other threats include ergonomic injuries from repetitive tasks and lifting, lasers, workplace violence and harm from radioactive material, x-rays, and laboratories. Chemical exposures may include formaldehyde used for preservation of pathology specimens, ethylene oxide, glutaraldehyde, and paracetic acid used for sterilization.
A widespread problem
Healthcare and social assistance have more injured workers than other occupations. These workers had one of the highest rates of work-related injuries and occupational illnesses than any other sector in private industry in 2017. That year, healthcare and social assistance had 582,800 injuries and illnesses which is 153,900 more than the second highest sector, manufacturing.
Nursing assistants were among the occupations with the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders in 2017. Nursing assistants had an incident rate of musculoskeletal disorders of 166.3 per 10,00 workers. By comparison, the average rate for all workers that year was 30.5.
Other healthcare workers
The healthcare field includes other workers involved in providing care. Large healthcare facilities employ many workers besides medical staff that are essential to providing care, and keeping these facilities operating but who also face health and safety hazards. Other workers include mechanical and medical equipment maintenance, housekeepers, food service, grounds and building maintenance, laundry staff and administrators and their staffs.