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Danger of Injuries to Healthcare Workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published guidelines on preventing back injuries in the healthcare industry. It turns out that workers in nursing homes and residential care facilities were sidelined twice as often by musculoskeletal injuries than construction workers. Why? It turns out that manual patient moving and shifting is more dangerous to the back and other muscles than high-risk construction work.

The OSHA brochure, "50 Tips for More Effective Safety Training," also describes other safety hazards faced by healthcare workers. These include:

  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Other biological hazards
  • Laser hazards
  • Workplace violence
  • Chemical exposure
  • Radioactive material

The workers with the highest rates of injury in the healthcare sector are nurse's aides, orderlies and attendants. Other healthcare workers whose jobs do not include direct patient contact also face hazards. The jobs most frequently involve maintenance, housekeeping, food service, laundry and administration.

However, the biggest source of healthcare worker injuries is patient handling. New York is one of the several states that have passed legislation mandating safe patient handling procedures for healthcare workers.

In addition to offering safety tips and training information for healthcare workers, the new guidelines include corrections to some common myths about patient handling that include:

  • Mechanical lifts are safer both for patients and healthcare workers
  • Mechanical lifting equipment is just as fast or faster than assembling a team of worker to lift or move a patient
  • Manual lifting is more expensive than mechanical lifting when the cost of injuries to employees is factored in

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