Health care workers in North Carolina face an almost endless list of work-related hazards. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention place the dangers in three different categories. Furthermore, the different occupations in the health care field further determine the risks those workers face.
Categories of hazards in health care
Radioactive materials, lasers and X-rays pose physical risks. Additional physical hazards include musculoskeletal disorders resulting from lifting patients and repetitive motions. Workplace violence is also a physical hazard occurring with more and more frequency.
Fixatives used for tissue specimens and other laboratory-related materials pose chemical hazards. Other toxic chemicals include drugs in pill form or administered as gases, aerosols or liquids. Cleaning agents also pose chemical risks.
Viruses, fungi, bacteria and other disease-causing pathogens threaten health care workers’ safety. Bloodborne pathogens typically cause hepatitis, swine flu, Ebola fever, HIV/AIDS and other serious diseases.
If you are a medical professional, food service employee or maintenance worker in a hospital, you will face more injury hazards than workers in manufacturing, construction and other high-hazard industries. BLS analysis indicates that moving and lifting patients and slips, trips and falls cause most injuries in hospitals. However, workplace violence is the most significant danger in substance abuse and psychiatric facilities.
Nursing home workers
If you work in a nursing home, you face the same risks as your colleagues who work in hospitals. However, the CDC says the most significant safety hazards in nursing homes involve violence by residents with brain diseases like dementia.
Home health care workers
With the aging population, many North Carolina residents need home health care workers. If this is how you earn your living, you will not have much control over your workplace environment. Your duties will include bathing and dressing your patient and moving them from one place to the next. The risks in these circumstances include biological hazards, bloodborne pathogens, slip-and-fall accidents, dog bites, driving accidents and domestic violence.
Infectious disease risks
Regardless of the health care facility your work in, one of the primary risks you face will be infectious diseases, transferred in any of the following ways:
- Airborne transmission: Air currents distribute minuscule air-suspended particles of infectious diseases.
- Droplets: Infectious diseases spread through droplets formed when infected patients sneeze or cough.
- Contact: Indirect contact from touching infected surfaces like door handles or direct contact when touching a patient and transferring infections.
Health care employers must protect employees’ health and safety and provide safe work environments. That is a complicated task, leaving many health care workers vulnerable. However, you might find comfort in knowing that the North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance program will cover your medical expenses and lost wages if you fall victim to a work-related injury or illness.