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 2010, the healthcare and social assistance industry reported more injury and illness cases than any other private industry sector -- 653,900 cases (Table 2 (PDF)). That is 152,000 more cases than the next industry sector: manufacturing. In 2010, the incidence rate for work related nonfatal injuries and illnesses in health care and social assistance was 139.9; the incidence rate for nonfatal injury and illnesses in all private industry was 107.7.
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants had the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders of all occupations in 2010. The incidence rate of work related musculoskeletal disorders for these occupations was 249 per 10,000 workers. This compares to the average rate for all workers in 2010 of 34.
To learn more about workplace injuries and illnesses in hospitals, see the helpful resources and tools on OSHA's Understanding the Problem page.
Other than doctors and nurses, what workers are exposed?
In addition to the medical staff, large healthcare facilities employ a wide variety of trades that have health and safety hazards associated with them. These include mechanical maintenance, medical equipment maintenance, housekeeping, food service, building and grounds maintenance, laundry, and administrative staff.
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and workers' rights?
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov or Workers' rights under the OSH Act.
OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Small business employers may contact OSHA's free and confidential On-site Consultation program to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites and work with OSHA on correcting any identified hazards. Consultants in this program from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations. To contact OSHA's free consultation service, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.
Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by a worker are more likely to result in an inspection.
If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.
In Focus: Ebola
- NEW NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication Number 2015-115, (2015, May).
- NEW NIOSH/OSHA/CDC Toolkit. Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit: Resources for Respirator Program Administrators (PDF* | EPUB** | MOBI**). (2015). Assists hospitals in developing and implementing effective respiratory protection programs, with an emphasis on preventing the transmission of aerosol transmissible diseases (e.g., influenza, TB, SARS, MERS) to healthcare personnel. Appendix D (DOCX*) is a template that can be used to customize your facilities program.
- Isocyanates: Do You Have Work-Related Asthma? A Guide for You and Your Doctor (PDF*). OSHA Fact Sheet (OSHA FS-3707), (2014).
- Safe Patient Handling -- Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in Nursing Homes (PDF*). OSHA Publication 3108, (2014, February).
- Worker Safety in Hospitals: Caring for Our Caregivers. OSHA, (2013, January).
- FDA, NIOSH and OSHA Joint Safety Communication on Blunt-Tip Surgical Suture Needles". (2012).
- Hospital eTool. OSHA, (2012).
- Improving Patient and Worker Safety: Opportunities for Synergy, Collaboration and Innovation. The Joint Commission, (2012).
- National Emphasis Program for
Nursing and Residential Care Facilities. OSHA, (2012).
- NEW Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication Number 2015-102, (2014, November). Assists trainers in meeting the health and safety training needs for homecare workers and to enhance communication between homecare workers and their clients.
*Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.
All other documents, that are not PDF materials or formatted for the web, are available as Microsoft Office® formats and videos and are noted accordingly. If additional assistance is needed with reading, reviewing or accessing these documents or any figures and illustrations, please also contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300.
**eBooks - EPUB is the most common format for e-Books. If you use a Sony Reader, a Nook, or an iPad you can download the EPUB file format. If you use a Kindle, you can download the MOBI file format.Back to Top