A new study by Zippia finds that hospitals are the most dangerous work sites for Illinois employees. Illinois was also ranked nineteenth overall in most dangerous states to work in. Employees have rights to protection under Illinois law. Chapter 820 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes makes specific provisions for safety in the workplace. Employers which do not follow these laws are subject to regulatory penalties (such as suspension of a business license), fines, civil lawsuits and even criminal charges.
Per the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), hospital employees encounter a number of unique risks that are not common in other industries. Specifically:
- Lift, reposition and transfer of patients with limited mobility, increasing the risk of back injuries.
- Close proximity to patients with contagious diseases and sharp devices containing contaminated bloodborne pathogens.
- Service of patients with mental or physical health challenges and substance abuse problems, often increasing the likelihood of violent outbursts.
The Zippia study identified and weighed several factors in order to designate the “most dangerous” states and industries. It began with an examination of OSHA’s injury reports, and divided each state’s total reports by the number of workers employed in that state. Fatality rates reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics were weighed as a separate factor in weighing the danger. Finally, data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety was broken down to determine the number of injuries in each state per mile driven.
Real Life Accidents in the Healthcare Industry
Injury statistics are more than nameless, faceless numbers. Real employees’ lives can be devastated by the effects of workplace injuries. Consider the example of a Philadelphia nurse who damaged a disc in her back while assisting to move a patient. NPR reports that she required surgery to install a metal cage and four long, sharp screws in her back. “The career I had as a floor nurse is over,” the injured nurse says. NPR also reports that nurses and nursing assistants suffer back and musculoskeletal injuries at a rate approximately three times greater than construction laborers.
Violence in the workplace is another very real danger faced by healthcare professionals. CNN reports on a series of troubling violent incidents in hospitals, including: a Baltimore doctor who was shot and critically injured by a gunman; a man in Valley Stream, New York who broke a chair and used the legs to beat a nurse; a gunman who opened fire in a Laurinburg, North Carolina hospital after a bar fight; and a man who killed two hospital employees in a Columbus, Georgia hospital after being dissatisfied with his mother’s care. CNN interviewed one emergency nurse who reported that she had been scratched, bitten, spat upon, and struck hard enough to break her jaw. The assailant later apologized, saying that he was “tired of waiting”.
And here in Illinois, a convicted murderer held a nursing assistant and corrections officer hostage at a Joliet hospital. According to the Chicago Tribune, the prisoner had been transported from the state prison to the hospital, where he devised a makeshift weapon which he used to hold the two workers hostage. The situation was resolved without injury in less than an hour. It was also the second such incident in Illinois in a month: less than four weeks earlier, a prisoner had to be shot after holding nurses hostage at a Geneva hospital.
Hospital employees must exercise constant vigilance in the exercise of their work duties. Stay alert for unusual activity, and be prepared with a backup plan in the event of violence. Workers on the job have rights under Illinois law. Contact a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible after any job-related accident.