When people consider the most dangerous places to work, hospitals probably do not come to mind. Yet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that hospitals are among the nation’s most hazardous workplaces. Hospitals reported 253,700 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2011, reflecting a rate of 6.8 illnesses and injuries per 100 full-time employees. That is almost twice the rate in private industry overall.
Construction sites and factories have a significant number of work-related accidents each year. But Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the rate of injuries and illnesses resulting in missing work days is higher among hospital employees.
There are a number of reasons hospitals present a hazardous work environment. Although hospitals try to maintain a clean and sterile environment, hospital workers are at a heightened risk for illness simply because they are in contact with people who have contagious illnesses. They also face the possibility of being stuck by contaminated needles.
Hospital workers are at risk for back and neck injuries from lifting and moving patients. They are also at an increased risk for slips, trips, and falls. Emergency room workers, in particular, are often in a chaotic environment where everything happens at double speed.
Violence is a surprising risk for hospital workers. Patients may become combative because they are injured, frustrated, suffering from dementia or confused. Hospitals in general are dynamic, unpredictable places.
To help reduce injuries and illness among hospital workers, OSHA provides safety information for hospitals. Understanding the risks is essential for anyone who works in a hospital setting. While it is impossible to plan for and avoid all possible hazards in a hospital, following the OSHA safety standards is certainly helpful.