For healthcare workers, the process of taking care of the sick and injured exposes them to a variety of health and safety hazards every day.
These hazards have negative consequences on their well being and performance at work.
Unsafe working conditions contribute to healthcare worker’s attrition in Kenya due to work-related illness and injury and the resulting fear of health workers of occupational infection, including from HIV and Tuberculosis.
Health and safety risks affecting healthcare workers
Exposure to patients’ blood and other body fluids through needle stick and other sharps injuries, mucous membrane, and skin exposures puts them at risk of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.
Improper disposal of medical waste such as needles and other sharp objects increases the risk of injuries on healthcare workers which can also transmit blood borne diseases such as Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS etc.
It is also possible for a healthcare worker to get infected with serious infections like Tuberculosis or Ebola in health facilities with a high ratio of patients suffering from these diseases.
2. Exposure to radiation and chemicals
Exposure to high levels of radiation can lead to nausea and vomiting often beginning within hours of exposure, followed by diarrhoea, headaches and fever. Long term exposure to radiation increases the risk of getting cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Exposure to and contact with chemicals used for cleaning, disinfecting or sterilizing work surfaces can also cause eye, nose and throat irritation, skin rashes, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and sensitization.
They could also increase one’s risk of developing asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses.
The common type of violence faced by healthcare workers are verbal and physical abuse. An agitated patient is likely to swear, threaten or shout at a healthcare worker.
The abuses may be as a result of cancellation of appointment, long waiting time at the health facility and during payment of patient’s bill.
In the recent past there has been incidences of healthcare workers who were either killed or seriously injured by patients.
4. Work related stress
Work-related stress can be associated with excess workload, long working hours, numerous shift duties and a high number of patients to attend to.
It could also be as a result of working in a health facility that has inadequate or irregular medical supplies, working in remote areas away from one’s family or poor pay.
5. Muscle pain
The nature of work for medical staff involves prolonged standing postures, continuous movements and the use of force during work e.g. lifting or transferring of dependent patients, bending, treating large number of people etc.
The most affected areas include neck followed by the lower back, shoulders and wrists.
Healthcare workers in the surgical department tend to be more exposed to occupational stress as compared to their peers in other departments as they are more likely to stand for longer hours during work.
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