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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Occupational Hazards in the Home Healthcare Industry

NIOSH has focussed on the dangers of working in the home healthcare industry. Home healthcare works face unique risks on the job to their own health. During 2007 alone 27,400 recorded injuries occurred among the more than 890,800 home healthcare workers. 

The US agency reported, "Home healthcare workers are frequently exposed to a variety of potentially serious or even life-threatening hazards. These dangers include overexertion; stress; guns and other weapons; illegal drugs; verbal abuse and other forms of violence in the home or community; bloodborne pathogens; needlesticks; latex sensitivity; temperature extremes; unhygienic conditions, including lack of water, unclean or hostile animals, and animal waste. Long commutes from worksite to worksite also expose the home healthcare worker to trans- portation-related risks."

The report concludes, "The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected home healthcare work to be the fastest growing occupation through 2016. Home healthcare workers, including home healthcare aides, nurses, physical therapists, occu- pational therapists, speech therapists, therapy aides, social workers, and hospice care workers, face unique hazards delivering services in patients’ homes and in various di- verse communities. Persons other than the patient who are residing or visiting in the patient’s home may be a risk to the worker. Home healthcare workers are susceptible to injuries. These may result from overexertion due to transferring patients into and out of bed or to assisting with patient walking or standing. Home healthcare workers may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens, needlesticks, infectious agents, latex, stress, violence occurring in the home or street, verbal abuse, weapons, illegal drugs, and they may encounter animals, temperature extremes, unsanitary conditions in the homes, lack of water, severe weather, or a response to a chemical spill or act of terrorism. The large amount of driving from home to home ex- poses the home healthcare worker to risks of vehicular injury or fatality."

Click here to read the complete NIOSH report.

Click here to read more bout NIOSH and workers' compensation.