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Occupational Health Hazards Faced by Healthcare Workers

Introduction

While workers are on the job, certain aspects of the work being done, whether it be the environment or just the nature of the work, can lead to a few hazards being faced by the workers of that specific job. Most jobs have either just the environment or just the nature of the work that causes its workers to face some dangerous situations. In the case of healthcare workers, they have both aspects to worry about in their work. The environment lends itself to some pretty dangerous situations for any person to be in, and the nature of the work can have some pretty dangerous tasks as well that need to be performed by these healthcare workers.

Let’s see what these hazards are that these healthcare workers face, sometimes on a day-to-day basis.

Various Infecting Agents

Infectious agents are organisms that are capable of producing infection or infectious disease. These include the following:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Viruses
  • Parasites 

Healthcare workers have a high risk of contact with infectious agents due to many of them being in contact with people who have these diseases already with them. Although treatment is often what is being done by healthcare workers, sometimes the virus, bacteria or fungus of a certain strain of disease can attach itself to the clothing of a healthcare worker. Sometimes in even worse cases, the infecting agent affects the healthcare worker directly by entering their bodies. Possibilities of contamination are high when you are around healthcare workers, especially within their work settings.

Chemical Hazards

There are many hazardous chemicals present in healthcare settings, which may pose an exposure risk for healthcare workers, patients, and everyone else involved in that workspace.

When treating patients, there are certain chemicals being used in those treatments in one way or another to help the patients. Some examples of these are antineoplastic drugs, aerosolized medications and anesthetic gases. Although these are helpful in treating the patient, they can still pose a hazard to the healthcare workers who do not need these treatment agents at all.

There are also chemicals being used for cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing work surfaces. These chemicals can be harmful to a person when used in an incorrect way. Examples of such chemicals are phenolics, quaternary ammonium compounds and bleach.

Certain medical supplies and instruments in laboratories and other places in the workplace also have chemicals that may be harmful to healthcare workers in the long run.

Physical Hazards

Musculoskeletal disorders are a major concern in occupational healthcare. This occurs due to their job of lifting patients when needing to transport them from room to room. Repeated actions of lifting often result in not only back pains but permanent damage to the spines and other parts of the body for healthcare workers. 

Injuries occur frequently and are often due to repeated handling of patients, which involves heavy manual lifting when transferring or repositioning patients and working in extremely awkward positions. Lifting becomes more difficult because of the increasing weight of patients to be lifted due to the obesity epidemic in the United States. The aging population also contributes to this rise of people in need of assistance.

Overall, the clunky nature of moving around patients and bringing them to their destinations when needed can really take a toll on healthcare workers. This is true, especially after a repeated number of times of doing this every day for long shifts at a time.

Conclusion

There are jobs out there that really have risks involved when a worker goes into that profession. Being in the healthcare industry is one such profession where there are risks both in the nature of the work and also due to the environment that the work is in.

What other hazards do you think healthcare workers face on the job?

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