The health care industry remains a pivotal part of the economy in west-central Pennsylvania. As a major economic contributor, health care has provided a number of jobs in the region. For example, the Butler VA Health Care System and its staff have for decades served thousands of veterans in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.
People who work in the industry include physicians, nurses, dietitians, occupational therapists, administrative staff along with support staff such as maintenance, culinary, housekeeping and waste disposal workers. And, just like any industry, every one of these workers faces on-the-job hazards. However, the hazards within the health care industry are not typical and can lead to serious illnesses and permanent injuries.
Many on-the-job hazards confront health care workers
Health care workers continue to experience some of the highest rates of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among other industry sectors, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Some of the dangers include:
- Exposure to infections and viruses: Among them include covid-19, a respiratory illness that van easily spread from patient to provider.
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals and drugs: Hospital cleaners, disinfecting chemicals, mercury and bisphenol A can lead to respiratory illnesses, skin and eye irritation, cancer and even death.
- Latex allergy: Latex products found throughout hospitals can cause anaphylactic shock and cardiac arrest to people allergic to them.
- Physical hazards: In lifting patients and supplies, workers subject themselves to musculoskeletal injuries that harm bones, ligaments, nerves and joints. Back strain is another serious injury.
- Stress: Working around the clock and dealing with serious patient-related situations can take a toll on a worker, leading to physical and mental breakdowns.
- Violence: Physical assaults in health care facilities are not uncommon. Workers deal with some patients who have psychiatric disorders leading to violent outbursts.
In times like these, our society depends on health care workers. Staying safe and healthy is crucial in treating patients and guaranteeing that health care facilities continue to operate effectively.