Health Care: Still One Of Most Dangerous Workplaces

Aug 29, 2014

In honor of Labor Day, I decided to check the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on workplace injuries. What are the most dangerous industries in Rhode Island?

Health care, beat only by trucking, being a messenger/courier, or working in some retail outlets. Surprised?

Nurses at Women and Infants Hospital in Providence, RI demonstrate using a lift to move an obese patient. In this photo, the patient is another nurse, wearing a suit made by puppet maker Big Nazo to simulate obesity for a training exercise.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Health care includes nursing homes, which seem to have some of the highest number of work days missed because of injury. That's partly because of all the heavy lifting.

The data I checked is the most recent available from the BLS, from 2007, which is not so recent. But it's consistent with more recent national data, and some reporting I've done over the past couple of years.

Nationally, the BLS reports that nursing assistants have some of the highest number of days-away-from-work because of injury (usually from heavy lifting):

"Seven occupations had rates greater than 375 cases per 10,000 full-time workers: transit and inter-city bus drivers; police and sheriff’s patrol officers; correctional officers and jailers; firefighters; nursing assistants; laborers and freight, stock and material movers; and emergency medical technicians and paramedics." (emphasis mine)

Sadly, health care workers are still getting injured more often than colleagues in other industries in Rhode Island. And as the population of people needing nursing home or home health care continues, that could only rise. Lots of health care organizations provide safety training, and make a concerted effort to help workers avoid injury, though (like Women and Infants - see photo, above, and story I did about their efforts to care safely for larger patients, below).

But clearly more is needed. Stay safe, nurses, assistants, and other health care workers! And happy Labor Day.