Nursing-home workers don't risk drowning like Arctic fishermen. Nor do they face being trapped in collapsed coal mines or crushed by heavy machinery. But, at least by one measure, nursing homes are the most dangerous workplaces in the nation.
More than 7 percent of full-time nursing-home employees suffered a nonfatal workplace injury or illness in 2012, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Thursday. The injury rate was even higher at nursing facilities operated by state governments, where 13.1 percent of full-time workers experienced an illness or injury.
Private sector nursing homes' injury rate (7.3 percent, to be exact) is more than three times the rate of miners (2 percent), and double that of construction workers (3.6 percent).
Nursing-home dangers garner less public attention — and infinitely fewer shows on the Discovery Channel — than other industries, because the injuries occur in far less dramatic fashion.
The leading cause of injuries are muscular or skeletal disorders caused by the repeated lifting and moving of patients, said Barbara Dawson, president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association.
The workers also risk contracting patients' diseases — including HIV and hepatitis — if they are stuck by exposed needles. In addition, nurses and other industry employees face exposure to tuberculosis and other airborne diseases, which are especially common among nursing-home patients.