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 2017, the healthcare and social assistance industry reported more injury and illness cases than any other private industry sector -- 582,800 cases (2017 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, BLS). That is 153,900 more cases than the next industry sector, manufacturing.
Nursing assistants were amongst the occupations with the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders of all occupations in 2017. The incidence rate of work related musculoskeletal disorders for these occupations was 166.3 per 10,000 workers. This compares to the average rate for all workers in 2017 of 30.5.
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 other hazards in the healthcare industry such as chemicals, hazardous drugs, and materials that cause allergic reactions.
OSHA's COVID-19 Safety and Health Topics page provides specific information about protecting workers from coronavirus during the ongoing outbreak.
- NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication Number 2015-115, (May 2015).
- NIOSH/OSHA/CDC Toolkit. Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit: Resources for Respirator Program Administrators (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 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. OSHA Fact Sheet (Publication 3707), (2014).
- Safe Patient Handling -- Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in Nursing Homes. OSHA Publication 3108, (February 2014).
- Worker Safety in Hospitals: Caring for Our Caregivers. OSHA, (January 2013).
- 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).
- Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication Number 2015-102, (November 2014). Assists trainers in meeting the health and safety training needs for homecare workers and to enhance communication between homecare workers and their clients.