Module 2

Health Providers with patient on gurney

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Work-Related Risks and Hazards

Note: If you must stop before the end of the course, be sure to remember the module number and section where you stop so you do not have to start the course from the beginning when returning.

Competency: Identify common healthcare work-related risks and hazards that can result in worker injury and/or illness.


  • Identify five categories of hazards in the healthcare environment.
  • Describe healthcare worker exposure hazards.
  • Describe rationale for hazard assessment.

Nonfatal occupational injury and illness rates for healthcare workers are among the highest of any industry sector. Healthcare workers face a wide range of hazards on the job including exposure to infectious biological agents, chemicals such as disinfectants and hazardous drugs, radiation, sharps injuries, repeated handling of patients, heavy lifting, and awkward postures.

Work stress often occurs and includes the harmful physical and emotional responses that happen when the requirements of a job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Work stress can lead to poor mental and physical health and can come from difficult working conditions including heavy workloads, shiftwork, unpredictable schedules, and engagement in emotionally charged situations such as violence, bullying, and incivility.

There are many settings where healthcare workers deliver services including hospitals, nursing and long-term care centers, ambulatory health care clinics, and home health settings. Identifying workplace hazards is a key component of any effective safety and health program and integral to an organization’s positive safety culture. All healthcare workers are at risk of exposure to workplace hazards including, but not limited to, the following occupations:

  • Nurse aides
  • Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Dentists
  • Dental assistants/hygienists
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Phlebotomists
  • Laboratory workers
  • Radiologists
  • Food service workers
  • Environmental service workers

Hazard evaluation is based on several factors:

  • Type of hazard exposure: Biological, Chemical, Enviromechanical, Physical, and Psychosocial
  • Likelihood of exposure occurrence
  • Route of exposure: inhalation, percutaneous, dermal, ingestion
  • Workers at risk of exposure
  • Severity of outcome following an exposure