OSHA states on its webpage that “a hospital is one of the most hazardous places to work.” In 2011, U.S. hospitals recorded 58,860 work-related injuries and illnesses that caused employees to miss work. OSHA suggests that in terms of lost-time case rates, it is more hazardous to work in a hospital than in construction or manufacturing.

Hospital settings often present serious hazards to employees, including those involving lifting, transferring, and repositioning patients, workplace violence, needlesticks, building maintenance and others. Hospital work takes place in an unpredictable environment with a unique culture. Caregivers seek to “do no harm” to patients and some will even put their own safety and health at risk to help a patient.

OSHA reports that most hospital injuries result from a few well-known hazards. Nearly half (48 percent) of injuries resulting in days away from work are caused by overexertion or bodily reaction, including motions such as lifting, bending, or reaching, often relate to patient handling. The resulting injuries often are musculoskeletal in nature.

Workplace safety also affects patient care. Manual lifting can injure caregivers and put patients at risk of falls, fractures, bruises, and skin tears. Caregiver fatigue, injury, and stress are tied to a higher risk of medication errors and patient infections.

OSHA has created a suite of resources to help hospitals understand workplace safety needs, implement safety and health management systems, and enhance their safe patient handling programs. See “Facts about Hospital Worker Safety” at www.osha.gov/dsg/hospitals.

When an employee gets hurt on the job, hospitals pay in many ways, including:

  • Workers’ compensation must cover lost wages and medical costs. The average hospital experiences $0.78 in workers’ compensation losses for every $100 of payroll. Nationwide, that is a total annual expense of $2 billion.
  • Temporary staffing, backfilling, and overtime may be needed when injured employees miss work.
  • Turnover costs are incurred when an injured employee quits. It costs money to recruit, hire, and train a replacement.
  • Productivity and morale decrease as employees become physically and emotionally fatigued; patient care may be affected.

OSHA’s tools (available on its website) can help hospital management reduce injury risks:

  • Worker Safety in Your Hospital: Know the Facts. This four-page booklet provides a concise summary of injury and illness rates, the major causes of injuries, costs, and solutions. It is a high-level overview sprinkled with examples to inspire hospital administrators and staff to take action.
  • Facts About Hospital Worker Safety. This compendium presents data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers’ compensation insurers,  and detailed studies. For safety managers and  others who want to explore the issue in depth, this booklet offers a comprehensive look at how hospital workers get hurt, which occupations are most at  risk, how much these injuries cost (including “hidden” costs), and how thorough recordkeeping can help you identify problems and solutions.
  • How Safe is Your Hospital for Workers? A Self- Assessment. This three-page fillable questionnaire encourages data-driven self-evaluation. It offers an opportunity for top administrators to talk with safety managers to find out how your injury rates compare with hospitals nationwide—and how these injuries affect your bottom line.
  • Integrating Patient and Workplace Safety Programs: Lessons from High-Performing Hospitals. This summary for hospital administrators uses real-world examples to demonstrate the value of a systematic process for proactively addressing workplace safety.
  • Safety and Health Management Systems and Joint Commission Standards: A Comparison. This table shows how core elements of a safety and health management system relate to Joint Commission hospital accreditation standards. You will see that safety and health can easily be integrated into existing Joint Commission compliance plans.
  • Hospital Safety and Health Management System Self- Assessment Questionnaire. A detailed tool that helps safety managers determine how many recommended elements of a safety and health management system are in place at their hospitals and identifies opportunities for improvement.
  • Safety and Health Management Systems: A Road  Map for Hospitals. This guidebook describes the six main elements of a safety and health management system and provides strategies for implementing them.. It features “success stories” and best practices from a variety of hospitals.
  • Safe Patient Handling Programs: Effectiveness and Cost Savings. An overview for administrators, this safety tool lays out the financial benefits of implementing and sustaining a safe patient handling program.
  • Safe Patient Handling: A Self-Assessment. This two- page questionnaire can help administrators and safety managers review their patient handling injury rates, examine existing policies and programs, and identify areas of concern and opportunities for improvement.
  • Safe Patient Handling: Busting the Myths. Common myths, barriers, and misconceptions about safe patient handling, and the facts to disprove them, are explained.
  • Safe Patient Handling Program Checklist. This customizable document includes a helpful list of factors to consider when starting or evaluating an existing safe patient handling program, based on lessons learned and best practices from various hospitals.
  • Safe Patient Handling Programs: Learn from the Leaders. Brief profiles describe how five hospitals have implemented safe patient handling programs and successfully reduced worker injuries, reduced costs, and improved patient care.
  • Need a Lift? Just Ask! This poster was designed to engage patients and their families and educate them about safe patient handling policies and equipment. Your hospital can customize this poster and post it in patient rooms.