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Workplace Safety and Hospitals

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This blog has frequently posted about the dangers of working in the construction industry. However, it turns out that working in a hospital can be just as dangerous. According to statistical information reported in an upstate New York publication, nursing and other medical jobs are just as dangerous, if not more so.

According to one western New York nursing instructor, the first thing student nurses are taught is back safety - how to prevent injuries while working. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported in 2011 that there were 16,680 cases of musculoskeletal injuries among healthcare workers in the United States that were severe enough to cause missed work days. That's 6.8 injuries for every 100 workers. The injuries that didn't cause absences make this figure even larger.

In addition to incorrect lifting techniques, long hours caused by inadequate staffing levels contribute to ligament, muscle and back injuries and strains, according to many nurses unions. Some hospitals in upstate New York have instituted back safety and strengthening programs to help staff protect themselves against on-the-job injuries. However, such programs do not address what nursing staff say is the real problem: understaffing.

Back and related injuries account for almost 50 percent of work-related injuries among health care workers. Nurses and nurses' aides and assistants face other dangers that contribute to a high workplace injury rate. They can be assaulted by patients, slip and fall on wet floors, be exposed to diseases and toxins, and come in contact with object. This last cause of injury can take numerous forms - being hit by carts, hospital beds, and other moving equipment is only one of the sources of injury referred to as "contact with objects."

Whatever their causes, injuries to medical staff in hospitals result in sprains and strains, joint pain and disease, fractures, trauma, cuts and bruises and infection. The consequences of such injuries can be long-term and career ending. As one nursing student said, "I don't want to be in my thirties or forties and have to have back surgery" as a result of repeated back and muscle strains.