Hospitals are hazardous places to work. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, hospitals have nearly twice the rate of employee injuries than the rest of the private sector. And, based on total days away from work, hospital workers are even more prone to injuries than those who earn a living in construction or manufacturing.

Understanding the dangers

Hospitals are staffed by a wide range of personnel, from food workers and janitors to technicians and therapists. Of all hospital workers, nurses and nursing aids have the highest risk of injury. Their work is physically strenuous, and they have close contact with sick and injured patients on a daily basis.

The most common dangers that hospital workers face include:

  1. Lifting injuries: These injuries are by far the biggest risk hospital workers face. Lifting, repositioning and transporting patients day after day takes a toll on the body. Many nurses suffer from chronic injuries to their back, neck, knees or shoulders. Muscle sprains and strains are also extremely common.
  2. Slip and falls: Hospital workers often spend their time in crowded, confined spaces, quickly navigating between rooms and around cumbersome medical equipment. When you’re on your feet all day, you face a greater risk of falling – whether due to tripping hazards, spills, slippery floors, uneven walkways or other dangers.
  3. Needle sticks: An accidental needle stick sets off a chain of reporting and testing requirements – and for good reason. Needle sticks can expose health care workers to life-threatening bloodborne illnesses such HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
  4. Assault by patients: Most hospitalized patients are experiencing the worst times in their lives. In addition to feeling unwell, they may have underlying mental health problems. Certain medications can make even the calmest of patients highly agitated. Unfortunately, those who work closely with these patients are at greater risk of becoming targets of violence.

In light of the alarming rates of injury among hospital workers, many facilities are taking steps to improve worker safety. Measures such as improved equipment for lifting and transporting patients can reduce the risk of injury among nurses. Given everything they do to care for ailing patients, nurses and hospital staff deserve a safer work environment.