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Healthcare Worker Injury Rates Among the Highest of any Profession

Posted in on Thu, Sep 26, 2013

October ASSE Professional Safety journal shines light on overlooked workplace injuries among healthcare workers which costs the industry $13 billion

Workers in the healthcare industry suffer higher on the job injuries than most other professions, with more than two million reported lost work days in 2011.  Despite this, the focus of safety in healthcare facilities has been primarily on patient safety, according to Safety Culture in Healthcare, The $13 Billion Case, a peer-reviewed feature in the October issue of Professional Safety, the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) journal.

“Pick any other industry, and the injury rate is less,” explained the article’s author, Scott Harris, Ph.D., MSPH, who added that healthcare worker injury rates are only less than outdoor wilderness professions such as commercial loggers and fishermen. “The injury rates are sky high.”

Since there is only one Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector for every 59,000 covered employees across more than eight million worksites, few inspections have occurred in healthcare facilities.

With nursing homes recording the highest injury rates among all healthcare facilities, the most frequent injury is sprains, strains, and tears to the back, primarily due to overexertion from patient handling. Slips, trips and falls, violence and chemical exposure cause other injuries, with nurses being the workers who experience the highest rate of injury.

The costs associated with healthcare worker safety, also eventually trickle down to patient medical bills. For example, the cost of injuries in hospitals in 2011 exceeded $6.1 billion, which required additional patient billing to offset the expense. Similar scenarios are true in nursing and residential care facilities and ambulatory health.

“The injury side of health-care costs has to be in there somewhere,” said Harris.

However, the weak occupational safety culture in healthcare facilities has not been ignored by OSHA, which in 2012, began targeted inspections and regional and national emphasis programs, with additional inspections at nursing, residential and ambulatory care facilities scheduled in the near future.

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For more than 50 years, ASSE’s Professional Safety journal has been sharing the latest technical knowledge in SH&E—information that is constantly being developed through research and on-the-job experience. Each issue delivers practical guidance, techniques and solutions to help SH&E professionals identify hazards, protect people, prevent injuries, improve work environments and educate management that investing in safety is a sound business strategy. For more information please visit http://www.asse.org/professionalsafety.

Founded in 1911, the Chicago-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 35,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org.



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