Health care workers experience unique workplace hazards

By Goodwin Como, P.C.

Health care is among the largest industries in Pennsylvania’s Fayette County, home to Uniontown. The industry employs hundreds of people from the area, primarily at Uniontown Hospital and a number of nursing homes in the region.

These health care facilities require many people – including physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, dietitians, administration, occupational therapists and other support staff – to keep them sufficiently operating.

But something that many people overlook is that health care workers face a wide range of workplace hazards that the average person doesn’t. Every day, a health care worker may be exposed to hazardous chemicals and drugs, infections, the latex allergy, physical hazards, stress and even violence.

Being aware of workplace hazards

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), health care workers have some of the highest rates of nonfatal workplace injuries among any industry. Here are some important matters that health care workers must remember related to potential workplace hazards:

  • Take precautionary measures when lifting patients or supplies. Musculoskeletal injuries affecting bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves and joints are not uncommon. Such injuries usually occur when lifting patients or transferring them from wheelchairs and beds, toilets and examination tables. Back strain is a common injury.
  • Be aware of chemical hazards. Chemicals such as mercury and bisphenol A, which can cause serious harm. Health care facilities must continue to stress safety and train staff in how to properly handle hazardous substances.
  • Personal protective equipment is a necessity. Specific tasks may require special gloves, masks and scrubs. Protective eyewear also should be considered.
  • Protect yourself from physical assaults, which may occur. Some patients may have psychiatric disorders, causing them to have wild and violent mood swings. Be on the alert for potential violence, and always work with a partner when handling such patients.
  • Get trained in the proper needle handling. A needle that has been used represents a potential medical hazard, so learn how to handle them and safely dispose them.

The health care industry requires a safe and healthy workforce. By being aware of potential workplace hazards, and learning how to deal with them, you will ensure a safe workplace.