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Brian, Zwick, Stone & Associates
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Working in a hospital is hazardous to your health

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration oversees the health and safety of every industry in the country. This includes industrial jobs working with explosives, chemical compounds and other serious hazards, construction jobs involving working at heights and with dangerous equipment and more.

Considering the safety issues that plague many industries, it may surprise you to know that OSHA says the health care industry presents the greatest danger to workers. In fact, the agency reports that, "a hospital is the most dangerous place in the United States." If you work in a hospital, you already know this. The question you need answered is how to protect yourself from illness and injury.

Workplace violence

Violence against hospital workers, particularly nurses, continues to be an issue. In addition to the potential for violent encounters in poorly lit corridors, parking garages and other areas where you may be alone, where in the hospital work substantially affects your risk. Some of the areas where violence could erupt more readily in a hospital include the following:

  • Emergency departments
  • Geriatric wards
  • Psychiatric wards
  • Waiting rooms

Another source of risk of violence arises when patients and their family or friends have to wait for extended periods. Tempers can easily flare under these circumstances, and nurses are often targets of convenience. Hospitals should take the time to implement safety policies, procedures and training to help you avoid violence or at least limit its impact.

Bloodborne pathogens

You spend your day around bodily fluids. You can't do your job and escape them. Bloodborne pathogens pose a significant risk to your health. To combat this potential source of serious illness, you need to protect your extremities, head, eyes and face. In order to do so, the hospital ought to provide you with the following protective equipment designed to limit your exposure:

  • Protective barriers and shields
  • Protective clothing
  • Respiratory devices

You need the proper protective equipment to prevent the inhalation, absorption or physical contact with possible sources of bloodborne pathogens. This may work in areas where you know this could occur, but patients do not always announce when they will bleed, throw up or lose control of their bowels. You may not have a chance to put on protective gear unless you already know that a patient's condition puts you at risk.

If you become the victim of workplace violence or a bloodborne pathogen, you may be out of work for a substantial amount of time. You may turn to the Ohio workers' compensation system for benefits to cover your medical costs, lost income and other needs.

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