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Workplace hazards faced by health care workers

Hospitals and other health care facilities employ a lot of people in Illinois and across the U.S. As the fastest growing industry in the country, health care provides jobs for over 18 million people. Many of these health care workers are exposed to health and safety hazards on the job every day. According to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 6.8 percent of full-time health care employees suffered from a reportable work injury or illness in 2011.

Some health care workers are at a higher risk for work-related injuries than others. Hospital staff in the emergency department and health care workers in the mental health sector frequently sustain injuries from physical violence. A study on emergency rooms showed that more than 12 percent of emergency nurses experience physical violence in a typical workweek.

Along with the risk of physical violence, health care workers are regularly subjected to infectious diseases and toxic substances on the job. Nurses that regularly lift and move patients can sustain spinal injuries, especially when there are not enough staff members for the number of patients that need care. Falls, needle sticks and overexertion are other common hazards faced by people who work in the health care industry.

A nurse, doctor or other health care worker may be able to pursue workers' compensation benefits after incurring a work-related injury or illness. If a workplace injury was caused by physical violence from a patient, the injured health care worker may be able to file a separate third party personal injury lawsuit as well. An attorney can often assist an injured health care worker in filing a claim for workers' compensation benefits and can provide advocacy at a subsequent hearing if the claim is disputed or denied.

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