Many workers in California are exposed to carcinogens on the job every day. One cancer-causing agent that might not be well-known is surgical smoke. Health care workers who spend significant time in operating rooms have an elevated risk of contracting cancer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says surgical smoke is as hazardous as cigarette smoke.
Hazardous drugs and drug waste threaten the safety of millions of workers in California and across the country. Along with health care workers, others in the life cycle of some dangerous drugs face similar risks of potential exposure. Contamination can happen via various routes of entry into the bodies of workers involved in shipping, receiving, distribution, transport, compounding, administering and the ultimate disposal of hazardous drug waste.
A Safe Patient Handling Conference is planned in another state, but nurse aids, nurses, orderlies, physical therapists, occupational therapists and emergency medical technicians in California face similar risks and deserve the same attention. Reportedly health care workers nationwide file more claims for musculoskeletal injuries and chronic back pain than workers in any other industry. Safety authorities say the primary cause for lost workdays and benefits claims is unsafe handling of patients, and this will be the focus of the conference.
Violence threatens employees in various industries. Employers in the health care industry in California have to comply with regulations that came into effect on April 1, 2018. These rules were put in place to ensure the safety of health care workers by developing plans to prevent their exposure to workplace violence. Each facility must establish a unit-specific plan based on the standards set by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently reported the outcome of a study that included the participation of 40,000 nurses in a survey about their use of personal protective equipment when they administer chemotherapy medication. Authorities are now concerned about the significant number of health care workers, including some in California, who work with hazardous antineoplastic drugs without protective gear. These drugs are particularly hazardous to female nurses.
Safety authorities say mental health facilities, emergency departments, long-term care facilities and some other medical areas are high-risk settings for workplace violence in California. Along with health care workers' risk exposure to radiation, toxic substances, infectious diseases and back injuries, the threats of assault and battery are ever-present. It is not uncommon for weapons to be found in psychiatric wards and emergency rooms.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, health care workers nationwide, including in California, are involved in almost as many workplace violence incidents that lead to serious injury as the combined number of such events in all other industries. Now, a federal bill to protect social service and health care workers by preventing workplace violence has been introduced. Under this legislation, OSHA will be mandated to establish national safety standards that will require employers in these industries to develop and implement comprehensive plans to prevent workplace violence before it can occur.
Patients in California hospitals will always be at risk of infections, medication errors and more. However, few people realize that the hazards faced by health care workers can ultimately harm the patients. Manual lifting forms a significant part of any caregiver's day, and the musculoskeletal injuries they suffer could put patients at risk of bruises, fractures and skin tears suffered from falls.
It is a well-known fact that workers in California hospitals and other health care facilities typically have to deal with excessive workloads. However, it is not always recognized that such workloads cause not only physical injuries but also emotional stress. Safety authorities say work-related stress affects a higher percentage of health care workers than most other occupations. An often-asked question is whether workers' compensation for health care workers cover stress-related conditions.
Each occupation in California has its unique hazards that threaten the health and safety of employees. According to the safety authorities, healthcare workers are in one of the most dangerous fields of employment. Workers in this industry are all faced with significant risks of contracting infectious diseases, not only in hospitals but all healthcare environments, including outpatient facilities, emergency rooms, nursing homes, mental institutions, prisons, ambulances and more.