In some respects, all workers are at risk of injury. However, certain occupations carry with them a greater likelihood of accident, illness or injury. Typically, the public thinks of construction, transportation and warehouse workers as likely candidates for a workplace injury. However — perhaps surprisingly — the most dangerous occupations are in the health care field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For every 100 workers, 5.6 are injured every year. The rate of injury for these workers is an average 33 percent greater than those in other private-sector employment occupations.
Certain segments of the health care industry carry even greater risk. Workers at nursing homes and other residential care facilities had 8.3 worker injuries or accidents per 100 employees every year. Seven hospital workers are injured out of every 100 employees every year, according to the BLS. Surgeons are at great risk of puncture wounds.
According to a study done by the Lucian Leape Institute, musculoskeletal injuries are the most common injury in the health care field. Lifting and moving patients requires frequent bending and can cause back pain. Another common culprit of health care worker injury is bloodborne pathogens.
One of the reasons for the high rate of injury may be the fast-paced nature of the current health care system, according to a 2012 Agency for Health Care Research and Quality study. That study found more than 70 percent of physicians and other health care workers felt rushed when taking care of patients. In addition, the Lucian Leape Institute study found that 11 percent of doctors see violent outbursts daily.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 18 million workers in the health care workforce. These workers face dangers from needle punctures, latex allergies, violent patients and overall stress. Unlike industries like agriculture and construction, which have become safer over the last decade, the health care industry — the fastest growing industry in the U.S. — has shown no signs of becoming safer.
Workers who are injured on the job may have some options when seeking compensation for help covering medical bills and to recover lost wages. Workers’ compensation pays injured workers a weekly sum based on their previous salary. Temporary disability payments provide for weekly payments for the duration of the disability. Permanent disabilities that prevent workers from employment can receive benefits for up to 500 weeks, or life, depending on the circumstances. Injured health care workers should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure that they will still be able to pay bills even if unable to work due to injury.