Many people pursue careers in the healthcare industry as a way to help others recover from their injuries and illnesses.
However, in doing so, healthcare workers themselves are increasingly becoming injured.
New data from the Occupational Health Safety Network (OHSN) reveals that injury rates for healthcare workers rose from 2012 to 2014 — with violent injuries in particular becoming more frequent.
Between January 1, 2012 and September 30, 2014, the 112 U.S. healthcare facilities studied reported 10,680 injuries to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Patient handling and movement-related injuries represented 4,674 of these injuries. There were 3,972 slips, trips and falls, and 2,034 instances of workplace violence that led to injury.
The healthcare and social assistance sector now represents the greatest proportion — 20.7% — of nonfatal workplace injuries among all sectors and industries, Medscape reports. These injuries overwhelmingly affect nurses and nursing assistants. Approximately 38% of reported injuries involved nurses, and 19% of injuries affected nursing assistants.
Workplace injuries are a notorious hindrance to efficiency, often requiring workers to miss work while recovering. Slips, trips and falls alone result in more than 95 million days of work lost annually — not to mention the monetary cost of this lost time.
The increase in workplace violence-related injuries might be the biggest cause of concern for the healthcare industry. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health defines workplace violence as “violent acts (including physical assaults and threats of assaults) directed toward persons at work or on duty.”
According to Fierce Healthcare, the rate of workplace violence injuries grew from 4% to 5% per 10,000 worker months between 2012 and 2014. And again, nursing staff are the most common targets of workplace violence — the rate of these injuries nearly doubled for this group.
This data further highlights hospitals’ and the government’s failure to prevent workplace risks for workers in this sector. Given the OHSN’s findings, it will be necessary for healthcare employers to implement “injury prevention interventions mitigating high-risk aspects of nurse and nurse assistant duties,” the report’s authors wrote. Ensuring the safety of nursing staff should be a top priority for employers.