Healthcare workers continue to rank high on injured-on-the-job study

dangerousoccupations4Nurses won’t be surprised to hear another study that finds health care workers suffer more injuries than in any other sector in the United States.  Nurses know friends and colleagues who have lost work days and income to injuries, some who even had to give up their career of bedside nursing.  The corporate focus on the bottom-line puts more weight on our shoulders, literally, as we are told to “make do” without enough hands or resources to move a patient or perform a procedure.

The proof is in the numbers.  In 2011, injuries to healthcare workers went up 6 percent while construction and agriculture-related injuries actually went down.  Work-related injuries for these workers is nearly 8 times greater than for other workers.  Injuries related to workplace violence is 7 times higher than for other types of workers.

What’s even more surprising is the extent of the problem and the lack of government regulation of health care worksites.  If you ask the general public which occupation has the most workplace injuries, most would guess construction trades, and that seems to be the assumption OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) works under as well.  A new report by Public Citizen finds that while health care workers greatly outnumber construction workers (and we suffer more than double the number of injuries annually), OSHA conducts nearly twenty times as many inspections of construction sites as they do of health care facilities.

OSHA does have a good track record of success in enforcing existing standards for health care facilities (the Bloodborne Pathogens standard, for example, has dramatically decreased the rates of Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS infections among health care workers).  However (and it’s a big however), there are no OSHA standards for two of the worst safety hazards in health care today:  unsafe ergonomic conditions and workplace violence. Without specific standards to address these common hazards, OSHA is extremely limited in their ability to protect health care workers.

Does your workplace have strategies to protect you from ergonomic hazards or workplace violence? Are nurses involved in planning and implementing these programs? Would you like to work on these issues from a statewide perspective? The MNA Health and Safety Committee is seeking new members to educate nurses about these issues and many more in our workplaces. Please contact Geri Katz at 651-414-2855 or if you are interested in learning more about joining the committee.

Learn more:

Read the report:

NNU Co-President Karen Higgins interview:

Huffington Post: The Hidden Health Care Problem