When you think of hazardous occupations, you probably think of firefighters, police officers, miners, or construction workers. The reality, though, is that workers in the healthcare industry have some of the riskiest jobs out there.
A study by Employee Health and Service Advisory Services at UL Workplace Health and Safety found that more than 2 million work days were lost in 2011 as a result of on-the-job injuries among U.S. healthcare workers. A report about the findings appeared recently at upi.com.
The injury rate for healthcare workers is higher than that of all other industries with the exception of wilderness professionals such as commercial loggers and fishermen.
There are a variety of reasons healthcare workers suffer high rates of injury and illness. One obvious factor is that they are typically exposed to many types of illnesses as part of their routine job duties.
Illness, however, is not the big issue with healthcare workers. They also suffer physical injuries at an exceptionally high rate. Workers in nursing homes record the highest injury rates of all healthcare workers. Their injuries include sprains, strains, and back injuries, which are often caused by overexertion and the frequent need to move patients. Healthcare workers are also sometimes injured by slips, trips, and falls as well and chemical exposure, according to the study.
Inadequate safety oversight at healthcare facilities adds to the problem. According to the author of the study, there is only one Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector for every 59,000 covered employees across more than 8 million worksites, meaning that facilities are not inspected on a regular basis.
The absence of frequent inspections may increase the likelihood that a healthcare facility will not follow proper safety procedures and regulations. The good news is that OSHA recognizes the problem and has started to conduct targeted inspections as well as regional and national emphasis programs that include additional inspections at healthcare facilities.