Workplace Safety: Keeping Yourself Mentally and Physically Safe

Suzan Miller-Hoover DNP, RN, CCNS, CCRN-K

Workplace Safety: Keeping Yourself Mentally and Physically Safe

In 1970 the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published the much anticipated, OSH Act of 1970. This Act was written to ensure that employees have a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm (U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), n.d.) Hazards can include:
  •   Repetitive movements – things that are done frequently and repeatedly
  •   Patient handling tasks:
       o   Moving patients while in an awkward position (stretching across the bed)
       o   Pushing gurneys and wheelchairs up a ramp that take a great deal of strength
       o   Lifting heavy objects alone
  •   Overexertion
  •   Workplace violence (staff and visitors)
  •   Workplace harassment (staff and visitors)
   (OSHA, n.d.)

Did you know that:
  •   33% of healthcare workers have a musculoskeletal disorder over their career?
  •   50% of all nurses and nursing students are harassed annually?

These statistics represent ONLY the REPORTED instances of injury and harassment, many more go unreported.

Musculoskeletal disorders include injury and loss of function to muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and spinal disks. These injuries may occur immediately or may develop over time. It is important to report injuries as soon they occur. Immediate reporting enables employers to insure you get whatever treatment may be necessary now and in the future.

Nurses and nursing assistants are at highest risk for workplace violence in the hospital, because they are most closely involved with patients. Violence may occur anywhere in the facility, but is most often seen in psychiatric wards, emergency rooms, waiting rooms, and geriatric units. It is an employer’s obligation to address workplace violence. Facilities are encouraged by OSHA to have a prevention program and policy that includes zero-tolerance for violence (OSHA, 2014).

Working in healthcare is a rewarding job! However, as with every job there are risks that must be identified and prevented if possible. It is impossible to name all the hazards that a healthcare worker may encounter; therefore, it is important that you know and understand the principles of the safety and health program of the institution where you work. You can prevent a lifetime of pain by following the simple rules of body mechanics, using assistive devices to move patients and heavy objects. Knowing how to recognize situations that will put you at risk for injury or harassment can empower you to prevent these occurrences. Reporting them, can influence changes in the programs that are already in place to protect you.

To learn more regarding workplace safety, review RN.com’s courses: Personal Safety for CNAs, Recognizing Intimate Partner Violence, Recognizing Impairment in the Workplace, Lateral Violence in the Workplace: Stop the Cycle, and Your Role in Managing Assaultive Behavior.

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). (n.d.). Ergonomics. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/index.html

OSHA. (2014). Workplace violence in Healthcare. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3826.pdf

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