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NIOSH Safety and Health Topic:

Health Care Workers

Health care is the second-fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy, employing over 12 million workers. Women represent nearly 80% of the health care work force. Health care workers face a wide range of hazards on the job, including needlestick injuries, back injuries, latex allergy, violence, and stress. Although it is possible to prevent or reduce health care worker exposure to these hazards, health care workers actually are experiencing increasing numbers of occupational injuries and illnesses. Rates of occupational injury to health care workers have risen over the past decade. By contrast, two of the most hazardous industries, agriculture and construction, are safer today than they were a decade ago.


NIOSHTIC-2 Search Results on Health Care Workers
NIOSHTIC 2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.

General Resources

NIOSH Program Portfolio – Health Care and Social Assistance
The mission of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research program for the HCSA sector is to eliminate occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities among individuals working in this sector through a focused program of research and prevention.

A Compendium of NIOSH Health Care Worker Research 2001
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-108 (December 2002)
Adobe acrobat icon pdf only 157 KB (49 pages)
Overview of research projects related to the health care industry.

Biological Hazards and Controls

Influenza Vaccination for Health Care Workers: Recommendation and Toolkit
External link:
Describes an initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to improve vaccination rates for influenza among health care workers.

Interim Guidance on Planning for the Use of Surgical Masks and Respirators in Health Care Settings during an Influenza Pandemic (October 2006)
External link:
A science-based framework to facilitate planning for surgical mask and respirator use in health care settings during an influenza pandemic.

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Guidance for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers (2007)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
External Link:
This publication includes technical information on infection control and industrial hygiene practices to reduce the risk of infection in heathcare settings.

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Recommendations for Protecting Laboratory, Field, and Clinical Workers from West Nile Virus Exposure
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2006-115 (December 2005)
This publication provides information for protecting workers from West Nile Virus.

Immunization of Health Care Workers
MMWR 46/RR-18 (December 26, 1997)
Adobe acrobat icon pdf only 423 KB (51 pages)
External link:
Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Hospital Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC).

Hospital eTool: MRSA
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
External link:
OSHA's Hospital eTool features a new module on MRSA. This electronic aid provides information to help stop the spread of MRSA among employees and others working in healthcare and other industries.

Guidelines for Preventing the Transmission of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis in Health Care Settings
2005 MMWR 54/RR-17 (December 30, 2005)

NIOSH Topics

Chemical Hazards and Controls

Best Practices for the Safe Use of Glutaraldehyde in Health Care (2006)
This handbook helps employers and employees understand and control exposures to glutaraldehyde, a toxic chemical used to disinfect and clean heat-sensitive medical, surgical, and dental equipment.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Adobe acrobat icon PDF only 261 KB (48 pages)
External link:

Glutaraldehyde: Occupational Hazards in Hospitals
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-115 (May 2001)
Esta Pãgina en Español En Español
Describes the adverse effects of exposure to glutaraldehyde, occupational exposures, and control.

Mercury in Health Care (August 2005)
World Health Organization
this document in PDF PDF only 33 KB (2 pages)
External Link:

Control of Smoke From Laser/Electric Surgical Procedures (Hazard Control)
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 96-128 (March 1998)
Describes how to control airborne contaminants generated by these surgical devices.

Waste Anesthetic Gases - Occupational Hazards in Hospitals
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2007-151 (September 2007)
Esta Pãgina en Español En Español
This brochure increases awareness about the adverse health effects of waste anesthetic gases, describes how workers are exposed, recommends work practices to reduce these exposures, and identifies methods to minimize leakage of anesthetic gases into the work environment.

NIOSH Topics

Physical Hazards and Controls

Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders

NIOSH Topic: Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders

Workplace Solutions: Preventing Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders in Sonography
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2006-148
Provides case summaries and recommendations for preventing MSDs in health care workers giving sonograms.

Safe Lifting and Movement of Nursing Home Residents
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2006-117 (February 2006)
This guide is intended for nursing home owners, administrators, nurse managers, safety and health professionals, and workers who are interested in establishing a safe resident lifting program.

Ergonomics: Guidelines for Nursing Homes
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
External link:

Beyond Getting Started: A Resource Guide for Implementing a Safe Patient Handling Program in the Acute Care Setting (2006)
This booklet was developed by the Alliance Implementation Team of the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Health Care (AOHP) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Adobe acrobat iconPDF only 1.2 MB (39 pages)
External link:
Reference and Samples (MS Word Document)
External link:


Public Health Notification from FDA, CDC, EPA, and OSHA: Avoiding Hazards with Using Cleaners and Disinfectants on Electronic Medical Equipment (October 31, 2007)
External link:
This notification describes problems such as equipment fire and malfunction and healthcare worker burns resulting from inappropriate use of cleaning and disinfecting liquids on electronic medical equipment.

FDA and NIOSH Public Health Notification: Oxygen Regulator Fires Resulting from Incorrect Use of CGA 870 Seals (June 19, 2006)
External link:
NIOSH and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have published a joint Public Health Notification to alert health care professionals and the public about a potential occupational hazard associated with the improper use of oxygen regulator gaskets.


NIOSH Topic: Occupational Violence

Violence: Occupational Hazards in Hospitals
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-101 (April 2002)
Esta Pãgina en Español En Español
This brochure is to increase worker and employer awareness of the risk factors for violence in hospitals and to provide strategies for reducing exposure to these factors.

Workplace Violence and Prevention in New Jersey Hospital Emergency Departments (2007)
New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services
Adobe acrobat iconPDF only 1.6 MB (34 pages)
External link:
This report describes the findings of a NIOSH-funded study on workplace violence among hospital emergency department workers.

Work Organization

Exposure to Stress: Occupational Hazards in Hospitals
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2008-136 (July 2008)
Occupational stress has been a long-standing concern of the healthcare industry. This brochure identifies the sources and adverse health effects of occupational stress and recommends work practices to reduce occupational stress in the healthcare industry.

NIOSH Topics

Reproductive Health

The Effects of Workplace Hazards on Female Reproductive Health
DHHS (NIOSH) Publications No. 99-104 (February 1999)
Many factors can affect a woman's reproductive health and her ability to produce healthy children. This document examines reproductive hazards for female workers.
Esta Pãgina en Español En Español


Recommended Infection Control Practices for Dentistry

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
External link:

NIOSH Topics

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Emergency Preparedness and Response
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
External link:

Hospitals and Community Emergency Response – What You Need to Know (1997)
External link:

CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response

Surveillance and Statistics

Workplace Solutions: Medical Surveillance for Health Care Workers Exposed to Hazardous Drugs
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2007-117 (April 2007)
Health care workers who handle, prepare, or administer hazardous drugs may face risks to their own health such as skin rashes, cancer, and reproductive disorders. NIOSH recommends that employers establish a medical surveillance program to protect workers who handle hazardous drugs in the workplace.

National Surveillance System for Health Care Workers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the National Surveillance System for Health Care Workers (NaSH) and collaborates with health care facilities to systematically collect information important to prevent occupational exposures and infections among health care workers.

Worker Health Chartbook, 2004
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-146 (September 2004)
A descriptive epidemiologic reference on occupational morbidity and mortality in the United States.

Worker Health Chartbook, 2000
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2000-127 (September 2000)
A descriptive epidemiologic reference on occupational morbidity and mortality in the United States.

Work-Related Lung Disease Surveillance Report, 2002
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-111 (December 2003)
Provides information on work-related respiratory diseases and associated exposures.

Related Sites

National Center for Preparedness, Detection, and Control of Infectious Diseases/Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion (DHQP)

CDC Topics

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

Page last updated: December 2, 2008
Page last reviewed: October 15, 2008
Content Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Education and Information Division

Health Care Workers

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