Healthcare, home of dangerous jobs

Healthcare workers have more anecdotal evidence of rising violence in their places of work, and one key data point backs the notion that jobs in hospitals, nursing homes and other care settings are increasingly high-risk to physical well-being. 

That metric is nonfatal injuries, which the Bureau of Labor and Statistics measures by industry. In 2021, the latest data available, private industry employers reported 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. If you remove illnesses, the healthcare and social services industry recorded 453,200 nonfatal injuries — higher than any other industry. By comparison, 334,500 nonfatal injuries were recorded in manufacturing and 162,500 in construction.

Nonfatal recordable workplace injuries and illnesses are those that result in loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer, and/or medical treatment that goes beyond first aid. Injuries cover cuts, fractures, sprains and other physical impairments resulting from work-related events. 

Some of the healthcare subsectors with the highest rates of nonfatal injury or illness per 100 full-time workers include ambulance services (10.5), nursing care facilities (8.8), psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals (7.1), and general medical and surgical hospitals (6.1). 

The rates of nonfatal injury or illness per 100 full-time workers were 3.0 for workers in highway, street and bridge construction, 3.2 for coal miners, 3.7 for loggers and 8.4 for correctional institution staff, by comparison.  

Healthcare provider jobs are physical in nature and laced with risks, from exposure to bloodborne pathogens, X-ray machines, respiratory illness and ergonomic injuries related to lifting patients and repetitive tasks. The industry has long grappled with taxing occupation-related injuries, which worsened during the pandemic. Healthcare workers experienced a 249 percent increase in injury and illness rates in 2020.

At the same time, a growing proportion of these injuries are linked to violence. An April 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics fact sheet found healthcare workers accounted for 73 percent of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses due to violence in 2018. The number has been steadily growing since 2011, the first year for tracking of these specific events. In response, many healthcare organizations have ramped up security measures, and about 40 states have laws that establish or enhance penalties for assaults on healthcare workers, according to the American Nurses Association.

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