Home Health Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

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What is healthcare?

Healthcare is involved, directly or indirectly, with the provision of health services to individuals. These services can occur in a variety of work settings, including hospitals, clinics, dental offices, out-patient surgery centers, birthing centers, emergency medical care, home healthcare, and nursing homes.

What types of hazards do workers face?

Healthcare workers face a number of serious safety and health hazards. They include bloodborne pathogens and biological hazards, potential chemical and drug exposures, waste anesthetic gas exposures, respiratory hazards, ergonomic hazards from lifting and repetitive tasks, laser hazards, workplace violence, hazards associated with laboratories, and radioactive material and x-ray hazards.

Some of the potential chemical exposures include formaldehyde, used for preservation of specimens for pathology; ethylene oxide, glutaraldehyde, and paracetic acid used for sterilization; and numerous other chemicals used in healthcare laboratories.

How many workers get sick or injured?

More workers are injured in the healthcare and social assistance industry sector than any other. This industry has one of the highest rates of work related injuries and illnesses. In 2017, the healthcare and social assistance industry reported more injury and illness cases than any other private industry sector — 582,800 cases (2017 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, BLS). That is 153,900 more cases than the next industry sector, manufacturing.

Nursing assistants were amongst the occupations with the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders of all occupations in 2017. The incidence rate of work related musculoskeletal disorders for these occupations was 166.3 per 10,000 workers. This compares to the average rate for all workers in 2017 of 30.5.

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