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 and it continues to rise. In 2020, the healthcare and social assistance industry reported a 40% increase in injury and illness cases which continues to be higher than any other private industry sector – 806,200 cases (2020 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, BLS). Over half of these cases (447,890) resulted in at least one day away from work. The total incidence rate for this sector was 5.5 cases per 100 FTE workers in 2020, compared to 3.8 per 100 FTE workers in 2019.
Nursing assistants were amongst the occupations with the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders of all occupations in 2020, with 15,360 cases. Musculoskeletal disorders made up 52% of all days away from work cases for nursing assistants. [Source: https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/case/msds.htm]
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.
Culture of Safety
Provides information on organizations safety culture and linking patient to worker safety.
Discusses workers and workplaces and how they make occupational exposure to infectious diseases challenging.
Provides information on evaluating hazards, determining solutions and risk factors related to workplace violence in the healthcare industry.
Discusses other hazards in the healthcare industry such as chemicals, hazardous drugs, and materials that cause allergic reactions.
Highlights standards and other enforcement information related to the healthcare industry.