“Healthcare workers are exposed to a broad spectrum of risk: chemical, physical, work organization, violence and stress,” stated Bruce Bernard, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer for the health hazards program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Additionally, as the population as a whole ages, healthcare workers are also older than they used to be. Ten years ago the average age of a nurse was 41, now it is more like 49 to 50. So workplace risks are heightened by the risks that come with aging.”
Research indicates that the healthcare industry is surpassed by only one other sector for the risk of illness and injury to its workers.
According to the 2009 State of the Sector report put out by the CDC, “In 2005, there were 668,000 episodes of nonfatal occupational illness and injury in the [healthcare and social assistance] sector. In 2005, the combined number of injury and illness cases involving days away from work for nursing aides, orderlies and attendants, and registered nurses accounted for over 30 percent of all occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work.”