University of Rochester

Environmental Health & Safety
Occupational Safety Unit
Hospital Worker Health and Safety Hazards

Hospitals and personal care facilities employ approximately 1.6 million workers at 21,000 work sites. There are many occupational health and safety hazards throughout the hospital.

Hospital administrators, custodians, cooks, aides, nurses, and doctors work in a challenging environment of 24 hour, 7 day a week public healthcare. Employees are exposed to a variety of workplace hazards including sprains and strains, communicable and blood borne diseases, sharps punctures, chemical use, stress, and workplace violence. Learn about these hazards, get training necessary to recognize them and use safe work practices.

Practice good housekeeping by decontaminating surfaces and equipment after use. Wear gloves and protective clothing such as a uniform, smock, or lab coat. Cover open wounds while at work.

Wash your hands frequently on the job. Do not touch your face, nose, or eyes while on the job. Change your clothes and shoes and shower before you leave work.

To prevent exposure to bloodborne pathogens like HIV or Hepatitis B or C, always practice universal precautions when dealing with patients. Avoid sharps punctures and blood and bodily fluid splashes to the eyes, mouth, nose, and broken skin by wearing splash goggles or face shields. Use safe work practices with soiled linens, wound dressings, or medical waste to prevent accidental exposure. Double bag and safely store medical waste. Keep needles and sharps such as knives, blades, and razors in sturdy, puncture-resistant containers.

If you feel you have a workplace exposure, call University Health Services (x51164). The circumstance surrounding the exposure will be documented and the employee will receive medical consultation, follow-up, and treatment, if necessary, in a timely manner.

Chemicals used for cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing agents can affect the skin, mucous membranes, and respiratory system. Anesthetic gases, chemotherapeutic and hormone drugs, and radiation exposures can adversely affect your health if used improperly. Use materials in the correct mixture strengths and doses and in well-ventilated areas to avoid breathing in concentrated fumes.

Ergonomic injuries are frequent in hospitals. Hospital workers may work long shifts, stand at work stations for long hours, and walk a lot. Wear comfortable, supportive shoes at work. Anti-fatigue mats reduce the strain from standing.

Shift-work and staffing level challenges stress hospital workers. Exposure to severely injured patients and personal crises can take a toll. Maintain your fitness, eat right, and get enough rest to help your body cope. Talk with your supervisor about prioritizing and managing your job tasks.

Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 5/22/2013. Disclaimer.