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Nurses face many workplace dangers

New Jersey nurses face many on-the-job hazards every day. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, hospital health care workers around the country were the victims in more than 250,000 reported work-related injuries and illnesses in 2011, and studies show that those working directly with patients are more likely to be hurt. Some of the greatest dangers nurses face involve needle sticks, contact with allergy-causing or toxic substances and workplace violence.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are 385,000 sharp object-related injuries to hospital health care workers each year. Laws require that hospitals use needles with safety caps, but nurses should use extra care when drawing blood from patients with contagious diseases or when fatigued from working long shifts. Nurses should use latex gloves to prevent exposure to blood and toxic substances, but the powder in the gloves can cause rashes and other allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock. Accordingly, nurses have the right to request powder-free gloves to avoid allergies.

Nurses are also at high risk for workplace violence. One study has shown that 12.1 percent of emergency room nurses experience physical violence during the average work week. Nurses working in high-crime areas and alone in remote locations are at elevated risk. Hospitals can help protect staff by installing security systems that control access to workers. Nurses can also help themselves by looking for signs of violence or substance abuse while reading patient histories. When possible, they should request security or work in pairs when dealing with aggressive patients.

Nurses who have been injured or sickened on the job are in most cases eligible to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits under their employer's insurance coverage. They can learn more about the types of benefits as well as the filing procedure when meeting with an attorney.

Source: Minority Nurse, "Workplace Health and Safety Tips for Nurses," Rachel Oliver, June 14, 2016

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