Keeping your health care facility employees protected
Injuries and illnesses happen in every workplace regardless of industry. However, employees who work in health care facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, testing labs, dental offices, and clinics are at an even higher risk. According to OSHA, “more workers are injured in the health care industry sector than any other.”
The main reason that health care workers experience such a high level of workplace injuries and illnesses is due to the number of hazards they face daily. For instance, the following are just a few of the safety and health hazards medical employees face daily:
- Exposure to bloodborne pathogens, chemicals, and drugs
- Exposure to respiratory diseases
- Ergonomic hazards from moving patients, medical equipment, and beds
- Exposure to workplace violence from patients
- Exposure to radioactive material and treatments
As a business owner of a health care facility, it’s crucial that you have the appropriate safety measures and protection plans in place for your staff. In addition to creating a safe environment for the health care team, you should also have a workers’ compensation insurance plan available to any injured workers.
Most common workplace injuries for health care workers
Even though health care employees face a wide range of hazards in the workplace, several injuries occur most often. For example, Unitek College lists the following five injuries as the most common for nurses and other health care workers:
- Overexertion injuries
- Injuries from falls, slips, or tripping
- Injuries from patient violence
- Contact injuries from medical equipment and objects
- Injuries resulting from exposure to harmful substances
Out of all the injuries a health care worker might receive, overexertion injuries are often the most common. A report conducted by BLS found that nearly half of all the injuries reported by nurses involved overexertion. As a result of overexertion, employees often find themselves at risk of suffering muscle, nerve, and joint disorders.
Medical jobs are often very labor-intensive and require team members to move patients, medical equipment and lift heavier objects throughout their shift. As a result, injuries such as wrist and ankle sprains, muscle strains, and back injuries are common.
Injuries from falls, slips, or tripping
After overexertion, injuries from falls, slips, and trips are the second largest cause of injuries in health care facilities. As medical staff move throughout a patient’s room, it can be quite easy to accidentally trip over a cord leading to a monitor or slip on a slick substance.
Injuries from patient violence
When people think about health care worker injuries, patient violence often isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, the truth is that nurses typically face more workplace violence than any other career—even more so than police officers and corrections officers.
In fact, according to the NIOSH, out of every 100 healthcare workers, almost 40 percent will experience either a physical assault or a non-violent event such as threats, sexual harassment, or verbal abuse.
What’s even worse is that most of the violent incidents in health care companies go unreported.
Contact injuries from medical equipment and objects
One hazard for health care workers that often goes overlooked is contact injuries. With multiple patients to care for, nurses and aids have to work quickly when giving care. This fast-paced environment can pose hazards such as coming into contact with medical equipment and sharp objects.
Of all the potential contact injuries, accidental needlesticks can pose the most significant risk. If health care workers accidentally stick themselves with a used needle, they have a chance of contracting infections and bloodborne illnesses.
Injuries resulting from exposure to harmful substances
Health care workers come into contact with harmful substances ranging from chemicals and medications to organic compounds and sterilants. Regardless of which substance it is, each can be dangerous for team members, especially if inhaled or it comes into contact with the skin.
Improving safety in your health care company
As the owner of a health care facility, it’s crucial that you focus on your staff as much as you do your patients. Some hospitals and care facilities often only worry about patient happiness and, as a result, unintentionally create an unsafe environment for their employees.
Here are 10 safety tips that will help create a safe working environment and cut down on workplace injuries in your health care facility.
- Encourage employees to report any form of workplace violence, even if it isn’t physical
- Offer additional training and guidance on the proper way to move patients and medical equipment
- Instill a culture that encourages employees to ask for help regardless of whether it is moving a patient, handling a violent situation, or asking questions about procedures
- Provide hands-free alternatives to reduce the need to use sharp objects like needles
- Supply your team with the appropriate protective equipment to cut down on their risk of coming in contact with a bloodborne pathogen
- Make assistive devices like slings, digital hoists, and sliding sheets available to staff to cut down on exertion injuries when moving a patient
- Encourage advanced training and licenses when it comes to administering or handling chemical substances
- Reduce the risk of accidental needlesticks by disposing of used syringes immediately, discouraging the recapping of needles, and utilizing blunt suture needles
- Create a program focused on continued safety training for all employees
- Establish a zero-tolerance culture for any violence or harassment against health workers
Preparing for a health care workplace injury with workers’ comp insurance
Implementing some or all of the above safety tips into your organization is a great first step to protecting your employees. However, no matter how much you try to prevent incidents from occurring, odds are a workplace accident will happen at your health care facility. When it does, having workers’ comp insurance can help cover your employee’s medical costs and lost wages.
Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As best practices change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.