The healthcare industry continues to grow rapidly, and millions of people enjoy healthcare employment in various sectors. However, each work day presents multiple hazards.
People who work in health care experience some of the highest numbers of nonfatal injuries and illnesses compared to other industries. Although some of the risks are preventable, many of them are difficult to avoid.
Physical and infectious hazards
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, musculoskeletal injuries are common. Working with patients of all sizes and capacities results in repetitive movements, heavy lifting and working in awkward positions. Many healthcare workers also work long hours, which makes the body more susceptible to injury.
Depending on the facility and scope of work, healthcare workers may encounter violence from certain patients. Employees in healthcare also come into contact with multiple infectious agents. Common ones include influenza, bloodborne pathogens and tuberculosis.
Other workplace hazards
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there may be exposure to hazardous chemicals and other physical agents. Common chemicals in various settings include:
- Ethylene Oxide – colorless, flammable gas used in fumigants and sterilants
- Formaldehyde – used as a sterilant or disinfectant to sterilize medical equipment, to embalm, to fix tissue and to prepare viral vaccines
- Glutaraldehyde – colorless liquid used in X-ray processing, tissue preservation and high-level disinfection
Certain drugs can pose harm to workers, even when exposure is low. Examples include those used for hormone regimens, chemotherapy and antiviral treatments. There may also be exposure to anesthetic gases like nitrous oxide and halogenated anesthetics. Radiation exposure and latex allergies are additional hazards employees may encounter.