Health care workers in New Jersey contribute greatly to the needs of the state’s residents. However, this industry can be particularly hazardous, especially for those in nursing positions who work directly with patients. OSHA reported more than 250,000 work-related injuries and illnesses in hospital settings for 2011. Nurses working in emergency rooms face particularly high risks. Statistics suggest that more than 12 percent of these workers face workplace violence in an average work week. Mental health nurses are at even bigger risk of facing violent situations at work.
The issue of workplace violence might seem surprising, but there are many on-the-job hazards that are much easier to recognize. Because these hazards are so common, it can be easy to take them for granted. For example, exposure to blood-borne pathogens is a serious risk for those handling sharps or biomaterials. Although protocols have been established for minimizing the potential for a sharps accident, it is important for nurses to be vigilant, especially during times of greater risk. Those working double shifts, for example, are at greater risk for this type of work-related injury. Low staffing and end-of-shift activities also create greater risks of needle incidents.
Exposure to environmental conditions can affect nursing professionals as well. Many nurses and other health professionals deal with latex allergies or sensitivities as they use gloves designed to protect them from other pathogens and risks. Consistent employee education is important for minimizing actual incidents.
Victims of workplace accidents should report such incidents in accordance with employer policies. Even if the injury was mild, a report should be filed in case a workers’ compensation claim becomes necessary.