The construction and manufacturing fields have garnered a reputation over time as highly hazardous. Yet evidence from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) indicates that the industry with the highest rate of injury is actually healthcare, specifically in a hospital environment. While many workers’ compensation claims are indeed filed due to accidents involving the heavy machinery and complex equipment used in construction and manufacturing, the most recent data indicates that the injury and illness rate at hospitals is far higher than any other industry. In fact, the injury rate at hospitals is double the rate of the private sector.

This surprising statistic has not always been true. However, new protocols and safety measures at private worksites have reduced the numbers of reported injuries in construction and manufacturing, which previously reported higher numbers

Why have other industries been more effective at improving injury rates?

Frankly, there are only so many precautions and regulations that can be taken at hospitals due to the nature of the work. Other industries can put protocol after protocol in place to more safely handle materials and machinery. However, handling people is different.

What risks should healthcare workers be aware of

The human factor is what makes healthcare so unpredictable. Healthcare workers are required to handle and distribute complex medication and provide physical assistance to patients of all ages and sizes. They are often exposed to highly contagious diseases. If their work puts them in the path of unstable individuals, they could even be in physical danger. The risks are myriad.

Who is most vulnerable?

Because Registered Nurses provide so much of the everyday patient care in hospitals, they are at the highest risk for injury and illness. The most common workers’ compensation claim for an RN to file is for a musculoskeletal concern, due to physical effort, overexertion or repetitive motion. The injury is often located in the individual’s back.

The identity of the most hazardous industry has shifted in the last twenty years. The healthcare industry now holds this dubious honor. Individuals working in this field should keep in mind that the legal definition of “injury” for the purposes of workers’ compensation includes illness and chronic pain as well as a more traditional workplace accident.