We Will Do The Worrying — And The Fighting — For You

Photo of Minneapolis skyline over Stonearch bridge

Common hazards that emergency department workers often encounter

On Behalf of | Mar 19, 2024 | Workplace Safety |

People who work in an emergency department care for individuals with serious injuries and illnesses. While many can make it through their shift without any issues, some fall victim to hazards while they’re working.

Understanding some of the more common hazards these workers face may help those affected to avoid them. With that said, it’s important to remember that the onus to provide a safe work environment falls squarely on the employer.

Exposure to infectious diseases

Infectious diseases are common in the emergency department, which means workers are exposed to them while they’re at work. This exposure can occur through direct contact with patients, contaminated surfaces or airborne pathogens. Diseases such as influenza or tuberculosis pose significant risks.

Physical injuries from violence

Another significant hazard that emergency department workers face is the risk of physical injuries resulting from violence. Patients or their relatives, who might be under stress, suffering from mental health issues or influenced by substances, can become aggressive and physically assault staff members.

Exposure to chemicals and drugs

Emergency department workers may also be exposed to a variety of hazardous chemicals and drugs. These can include cleaning agents, sterilizing chemicals and medications that may be harmful if improperly handled. The risk extends to accidental needle sticks, which can expose workers to blood-borne pathogens and potentially toxic or hazardous medications.

Risk of musculoskeletal injuries

Musculoskeletal injuries are a common hazard for workers in many healthcare settings, including the emergency department. They can occur from repetitive tasks, lifting and moving patients or standing for long periods. Providing patient care can also require healthcare professionals to bend over the patient.

Injured emergency department workers shouldn’t try to “make it through” the remainder of their shift. While it’s noble to try to continue caring for the patients, it could mean their own injury becomes worse. Instead, they should get medical care right away. Those workers should qualify for workers’ compensation coverage, which should cover the cost of care. Other benefits might also be possible, so those workers should seek legal assistance from someone familiar with cases similar to theirs in order to maximize their compensation.