Pennsylvania medical workers: Reducing the risk of occupational injuries
Health care workers face a number of hazards in the workplace, but they may avoid suffering work-related injuries by taking certain precautions.
While it may come as a surprise to many people throughout the Media area, occupational injuries are all too common for health care workers. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that there were more than 253,000 work-related injuries recorded by hospitals across the country in 2011. Some of the dangers that those in the health care industry face are inherent to the jobs they perform and the environments they work in. However, hospital workers may avoid other injury risks by taking certain precautions.
Common workplace hazards for health care workers
Employees in the health care industry, particularly those who work in hospitals, face a range of hazards in the workplace. Some of the most common causes of occupational injuries for such workers include the following:
- Falls, slips and trips
- Overexertion and bodily reaction
- Contact with objects
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that health care workers may suffer needlestick injuries on the job. This may expose them to bodily fluids, and other contagions, which might lead to the development of occupational diseases. As a result of such illnesses, or other on the job injuries, health care workers may be entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits.
Create a safety culture
Perhaps one of the most important things that employers and facility administrators can do to ensure the safety of health care workers is to create a safety culture. This includes educating workers about the potential hazards they face in the workplace, as well as establishing and implementing safety protocols. Workers should be encouraged to practice proper hand hygiene, and to take other steps to help prevent workplace injuries.
Implement an exposure control plan
In the hospital setting, workers may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens, radiation and other dangerous substances. Thus, it is advisable to establish medical surveillance to monitor for and identify such hazards. OSHA suggests that health care workers should use personal protective clothing and equipment in order to avoid such exposures. Furthermore, it is advisable that employers require their workers to stay up to date on their vaccinations, including their Hepatitis B vaccination.
Using engineering controls may also help health care workers avoid exposure to certain contagions. These include shielded needle devices, needleless devices and plastic capillary tubes.
Practice safe patient handling
According to OSHA, 48 percent of the work-related injuries that health care workers suffered, which required days off of work in 2011, were caused by bodily reaction and overexertion. This is, in large part, because health care workers often have to lift, reposition and otherwise assist patients who may be unable to move on their own.
Health care workers may avoid strains, sprains and other types of overexertion injuries by practicing safe patient handling techniques. This includes using proper lifting techniques when moving patients. Additionally, it is advisable for people to get help from another worker if they cannot safely lift a patient on their own. Using assistive patient handling equipment and devices may also help health care workers prevent these types of injuries.
Working with an attorney
When health care workers in Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, are injured on the job, they are often entitled to workers' compensation benefits. However, the process of obtaining these benefits is not always straightforward. Thus, those who have suffered occupational injuries while working in the health care field may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A lawyer may help them to understand their rights, as well as guide them through the claims filing process.