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Health care industry has more injuries than any other

In an annual report, the U.S. Department of Labor expressed concern over a certain industry that is the leader in occupational injuries, which should cause many Pennsylvania workers to take note. According to the report, more health care and social assistance employees contract a disease or are injured at work than any other industry in the United States. In 2010, the rate of injured individuals per 100 workers was 5.2. All other private industries in the United States had a combined rate of 3.5 per 100.

In 2006, the rate of injured workers was even higher at 5.8, but three years earlier it was 6.5. Thankfully, occupational injuries for this industry are on the decline.

Health care workers in Pennsylvania -- despite the steadily declining injury rate -- should be careful when working with at-risk patients or in dangerous situations. More than a decade ago, a woman learned this the hard way while she was a nurse. She was assisting in the treatment of a patient who was infected with AIDS and was accidentally pricked by a needle that had been used on the patient. She later found out that she was also infected.

Rates among other major industries pale in comparison to that of health care. Nationally, construction had a rate of 4.0 per 100 laborers and mining had 2.3 per 100. Within the health care and social assistance industry, both hospitals and residential care facilities had rates that are much higher than the rate of the industry as a whole. Employees in nursing and residential care had an injury rate of 8.3 in 2010. Hospitals saw a rate of 7.0.

The occurrences of workplace injuries for those who are employed in the health care industry have many -- besides individuals within the industry and the Labor Department -- concerned. For those who have been injured on the job, there are legal remedies, such as civil suits or workers' compensation benefits, to help cover the costs of injuries.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Health care workers at serious risk of injury on the job," Sean D. Hamill, Dec. 5, 2011

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