The Most Dangerous Industry For Workers

health care injuries
health care injuries

Where do most workplace injuries happen? Oil drilling, you might think, or construction, or truck driving. But in an ironic twist, the workers in the most dangerous industry don't have to go very far if they get injured; they work in the health care sector.

According to a new report by Public Citizen's Congress Watch, a consumer advocacy group, nearly half -- 45 percent -- of all incidents of workplace violence that result in lost workdays occur in the health care industry. Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants are seven times more likely than the average worker to suffer musculoskeletal disorders (requiring days off work), according to the latest data, and also seven times more likely to be injured in an assault on the job.

"I think a lot of the reasons may have to do with people being on medication, and being off medication," explains Keith Wreightson, the work safety and health advocate at Public Citizen's Congress Watch, and a co-author of the report. He believes many of the violent incidents occur in psychiatric facilities, and in general, "a lot of people are not particularly happy to be in a health care facility. They're angry."

Workplace Not Monitored: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal body tasked with ensuring workplace safety, devotes only a fraction of its attention to the health care industry compared to other high-risk occupations, according to the Congress Watch report, which was created with assistance from the Service Employees International Union. Part of the reason is that there are only a tiny number of regulations on the books that affect the sector.

"If they show up in a health care facility, there's nothing to cite them on, fine them on, write them up on, or say anything about it," says Wreightson. "... Employers in the health care industry are more likely to be cited for frayed electrical cords over physical harm or ergonomic harm to an employee."