The healthcare industry accounts for a high proportion of all national workplace injuries, as employees from this sector report some of the highest rates of injury and illness from all private industries, according to a report from Zurich on healthcare-related workers’ compensation claims.
Healthcare is also one of the key sources of employment in the US, with notable job gains occurring in this sector in April in the recent update on unemployment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
“The healthcare sector has been growing for years and will continue to do so. It’s one of the largest, fastest growing segments of the industry,” said Todd Pollock, senior vice president of workers’ compensation at Worldwide Facilities.
There are two main types of workplace injuries typical in the healthcare space.
“There’s patient handling exposure in healthcare and there’s occupational disease exposure,” explained Pollock, though emerging workers’ comp-related trends are also coming to the forefront. “There’s an increase in risk with an aging workforce, but, at the same time, [workplace tasks are] also becoming more automated. That’s alleviating some of the exposure of an aging workforce as far as workers’ comp risk is concerned. Some of the jobs’ duties, such as moving non-ambulatory patients, are now easier.”
The risks facing employees in the healthcare sector vary from job to job, and workplace to workplace. The home healthcare space is considered a higher hazard exposure because of the travel involved with the position, and the variety of different jobsites an employee might visit over the course of their work.
“With the shift to home healthcare services versus nursing home living, there’s a significantly greater driving exposure. More and more elderly folks are choosing to stay at home and have the services come to them as opposed to moving into a nursing home,” said Pollock. “With this change, there is a greater over-the-road exposure.”
In healthcare, as in all industries, employers need to establish a strong culture around safety as a loss prevention strategy.
“If you have a business [with employees], you need a risk management program. You need managers that believe in a safe work environment, you need training and education for your employees, as well as refresher training, and you need to make safety a part of the culture of your organization – just like profitability and just like efficiency,” said Pollock.