Occupational Health and Safety for Health Care Workers
Prime the pump
November 15, 2022
Occupational Health and Safety for Health Care Workers

“Caregiving has no second agendas or hidden motives. The care is given from love for the joy of giving without expectation, no strings attached.” – Gary Zukav

Over the past few weeks our focus has been on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), in the workplace. When one thinks of OSH in the workplace, the health sector or health workers may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

However, today, we turn the microscope to this very essential sector. On 7th November, 2022 the World Health Organization shared the following key facts and its stands as it relates to care for health workers under the topic ‘Occupational health: health workers.’

About 54% of health workers in low- and middle-income countries have latent tuberculosis, which is 25 times higher than the general population.

Between 44% and 83% of nurses in clinical settings in Africa have chronic lower back pain, compared to 18% among office workers.

Globally, 63% of health workers report experiencing any form of violence at the workplace.

During the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, 23% of front-line healthcare workers worldwide suffered depression and anxiety and 39% suffered insomnia.

Furthermore, medical professions are at higher risk of suicide in all parts of the world.

Unsafe working conditions resulting in occupational illness, injuries and absenteeism constitute a significant financial cost for the health sector (estimated at up to 2% of health spending).

However, so far only 26 out of the 195 Member States of WHO have in place policy instruments and national programmes for managing occupational health and safety of health workers.

According to WHO, health workers are all people engaged in work actions whose primary intent is to improve health, including doctors, nurses, midwives, public health professionals, laboratory technicians, health technicians, medical and non-medical technicians, personal care workers, community health workers, healers and traditional medicine practitioners.

The term also includes health management and support workers such as cleaners, drivers, hospital administrators, district health managers and social workers, and other occupational groups in health-related activities as defined by the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-08).

WHO described health workers as the backbone of any functioning health system and noted that health workers face a range of occupational risks associated with infections, unsafe patient handling, hazardous chemicals, radiation, heat and noise, psychosocial hazards, violence and harassment, injuries, inadequate provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

WHO emphasized that the protection of health and safety of health workers should be part of the core business of the health sector: to protect and restore health without causing harm to patients and workers. However, only one third of countries have some national policy instrument to protect health, safety and well-being of health workers.

In response, in 2022, with resolution WHA74.14 on protecting, safeguarding and investing in the health and care workforce, the World Health Assembly called upon Member States “to take the necessary steps to safeguard and protect health and care workers at all levels”.

The global patient safety action plan 2021–2030, adopted by the 74th World Health Assembly, includes action on health worker safety as priority for patient safety.

WHO’s work on protecting the health, safety and well-being of health workers includes: development of norms and standards for prevention of occupational risks in the health sector; advocacy and networking for strengthening the protection of health, safety and well-being of health workers; and supporting countries to develop and implement occupational health programmes for health workers at the national, subnational and health facility levels.

Occupational safety and health have been the topic of conversation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines since September, when Jaric St. Vincent Limited started a six-part occupational safety and health workplace conversation series aimed at awakening a consciousness in business owners of the inevitable, i.e., the operationalized of the SVG OSH Act 2017.

The Conservation Series continue 23rd and 24th November where the critical issue of Conducting and Documenting Risk Assessments will be discussed – safety and health is every body’s business.

Source: Occupational health: health workers