The healthcare industry is the fastest growing industry in the United States, and it is not expected to slow down any time soon. One reason for the explosion of jobs in the healthcare industry is the increasing number of older Americans who need care.
Experts estimate that the number of older Americans, age 65 and older, will outnumber those age 21 and younger by the year 2050 for the first time in history. Many of the elderly require around-the-clock care in a nursing home setting.
For those who work in nursing homes, safety is paramount. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nonfatal occupational injury and illness cases among healthcare workers are among the highest of any industry.
If you work in a nursing home, consider the following six steps to staying safe in the workplace.
- Know the safety rules and procedures. Employees in all types of occupations commonly receive an employee handbook when they begin a new job. Most people give the handbook a cursory inspection at best. If you work in a nursing home, or any other healthcare environment, knowing the established safety rules and procedures could save your life or that of a co-worker or resident.
- Follow the rules and procedures. Again, this is even more important in a nursing home setting than in most workplaces. Because you may be exposed to hazards, it is important to follow the established rules and procedures to minimize your risk of illness or injury.
- Lift properly. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants had the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders of all occupations in 2010. The very nature of the care provided at a nursing home means that residents are frequently unable to do things such as dress, bathe, or even get out of bed without assistance. Using proper lift techniques can significantly reduce your risk of a back or neck injury.
- Always wear protective gear. Among the hazards that nursing home employees face are blood-borne pathogens and biological hazards, chemical and drug exposure, waste anesthetic gas exposures, and respiratory hazards. Exposure to any of these can cause serious illness. Always wear protective gear such as gloves and masks.
- Wear proper shoes. Along with musculoskeletal injuries, slips and falls are also common injuries to nursing home workers. Investing in a pair of sturdy, slip-resistant shoes will go a long way toward preventing a workplace slip or fall in a nursing home.
- Report incidents and concerns. Always report a potential safety hazard to an immediate supervisor. Catching hazards early is one of the keys to preventing nursing home accidents and injuries. If you do suffer a work-related illness or injury, always report that, even if you do not appear to have a significant injury or illness. All too often, an injury or illness is more serious or long-lasting than it initially appeared. Reporting the incident or accident will ensure that you receive Worker’s Compensation to which you are entitled down the road.