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Work Injuries in Healthcare

Healthcare Workers in Queensland (such as areas like Brisbane, Gold Coast, Mackay, Townsville or Sunshine Coast) are often at risk of accidents or injuries that are uncommon for other kinds of workers in different sectors.

According to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland in their 2013-2014 Workers’ Compensation Regulator Statistics Report, health care workers represent one of the most at risk job sectors for workplace injuries.

This report covered a wide area of professions in health care and social assistance including:

  • – Hospitals
  • – Medical & other health care services
  • – Residential care services
  • – Social assistance services

The challenges of the profession are almost certainly known to the people who work in these areas, but for the layperson, what are some of the risks of working in this field?

A systematic review of work related injuries amongst health care workers was completed by the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing Online. This paper illustrated the following workplace hazards that many healthcare workers come across:

Accidental Blood & Bodily Fluid Exposures

Professionals who handle bodily fluid samples and blood run the risk of being exposed to those fluids on their skin or even by ingestion should the fluids spill and cause splash or particle area of effect exposure.

The risk increases depending on the length of the shift as workers become more fatigued and most likely occur with the house staff, nursing staff and technicians who are more likely to handle these specimens.

The consequences of being exposed to these fluids depend on the disease or illness of the patient and can be as minor as catching the flu, to something as serious as contracting HIV, or even deadly such as Ebola.

Needlestick & Sharp Injuries

Exposure to sharps such as needles can not only cause injury, but can also pass off serious diseases and illnesses to health care staff.

Negligence of other workers, or the employer for not providing adequate safety equipment or training are the most common causes of this type of injury. However, there are also other work related factors such as depression (stress from the workplace leading to self-harm), long shift work, environmental stressors and busy work pace.

Fatigue is also another common work related issue that causes accidents in the workplace and may be a factor in sharp injuries.

Injuries from Medical Equipment

Faulty equipment or improper training or safety procedures can lead to equipment injuries such as electrocution, equipment falling or rolling over a health care worker, Body parts being caught in moving parts of machinery, etc.

Injuries and disease from equipment such as MRI or X-Ray equipment can also occur if proper procedure is not followed or if the patient does not adhere to proper procedure and puts the health care worker at risk.

Motor Vehicle Collisions

Ambulance drivers and other health care staff that operate vehicles are at risk of collision in the course of their employment, which can lead to a number of serious injuries such as musculoskeletal injuries, fractures or even death.

Sometimes, these accidents can occur from fatigue or from improperly maintained vehicles and equipment. However, the most risk comes from other drivers on the road that fails to follow proper driving guidelines when a health service vehicle needs to arrive at the medical site quickly.

Fatigue & Sleep Disorders

The demands of the health care profession are very excessive for a lot of workers and it is not uncommon for workers to develop sleep disorders and fatigue symptoms. These issues not only increase the risk of accident and injury, but they also affect a worker’s ability to enjoy their normal life with their friends and family in both social and private settings.

It is becoming more important for workplaces to take into account worker fatigue and failing to do so only increases the risk of injury to a health care worker.

Many health care workers in Queensland including Brisbane and the Gold Coast or in Northern Queensland such as in Townsville or in mining areas such as Mackay are unaware of the degree of responsibility that employers have on their employees.

This is why it is so important for injured workers to seek proper legal advice to be informed of their rights to compensation.

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