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Women's Safety and Health Issues at Work

	5 women stnading side by side

Job Area: Health Care

In 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated over 13 million women were working in health care and social assistance. In the U.S., 91% of the nurses and nursing aides are women. 1 Women working in health care may be worried about illnesses and injuries caused by long hours, shift changes, physical tasks, violence, and possible exposure to infectious diseases and hazardous chemicals.

NIOSH Publications

NIOSH Fast Facts Home Healthcare Workers How to Prevent Violence on the Job
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2012-118 (February 2012)

NIOSH Fast Facts Home Healthcare Workers How to Prevent Musculoskeletal Disorders
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2012-120 (February 2012)

NIOSH List of Antineoplastic and Other Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings 2010
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2010-167 (September 2010)

Workplace Solutions: Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs for Veterinary Healthcare Workers
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2010-150 (June 2010)

Personal Protective Equipment for Health Care Workers Who Work with Hazardous Drugs
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2009-106 (2008)

Workplace Solutions: Medical Surveillance for Health Care Workers Exposed to Hazardous Drugs
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2007-117 (2007)
En Espa?l

Workplace Solutions: Preventing Worker Deaths and Injuries When Handling Micotil 300?

NIOSH Alert: Preventing Occupational Exposures to Antineoplastic and other Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-165 (2004)

Violence: Occupational Hazards in Hospitals
NIOSH Publication No. 2002-101 (April 2002)

Related Resources

A pilot study on the association between job stress and repeated measures of immunological biomarkers in female nurses
Results of an 8-month longitudinal study suggested that psychological job stress affects the levels of some immune system markers in female nurses.

Associations between work schedule characteristics and occupational injury and illness
After weekly work hours, shift length and demographic variables were accounted for, non-day shifts were associated with work-related injury and illness among nurses. Also, frequency of working mandatory overtime was associated with work-related injury, work-related illness and missing more than two days of work because of a work-related injury or illness.

Hemoglobin adducts and sister chromatid exchanges in hospital workers exposed to ethylene oxide: effects of glutathione S-transferase T1 and M1 genotype
This study examined the effects of Ethylene oxide (EtO),a cancer-causing agent, on chromosome (DNA) damage in workers who operate an EtO sterilizer in hospitals. EtO is commonly used to make other products and for sterilization. The study found some individuals who have had a gene deleted (GSTT1 gene) may be more susceptible to DNA damage from EtO.

Occupational blood exposure among unlicensed home care workers and home care registered nurses: are they protected?
A study involving? home health care nurses and Medicare Certified Home Healthcare Agency and hospice employers found that more home health care than employers reported needlestick injuries within the past year. An index was developed to evaluate employer compliance with OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. Its use can help employers review and revise their exposure control plans to ensure compliance.

Occupational exposure to anesthetic gases, antineoplastic drugs, antiviral drugs, sterilizing agents, and x-rays and risk of spontaneous abortion among nurses
In a study involving more than 7,000 nurses, findings suggested that self-reported occupational exposure to cancer drugs and sterilizing agents was related to an increased risk of spontaneous abortion.

Occupational factors and risk of preterm brth in nurses
In a study involving a large group of nurses, women who worked part-time had a lower risk of delivering pre-term babies, although there was no clear relationship with overtime hours. Nurses who worked night shift had a three-fold risk of delivering their babies in the early-preterm stage (before 32 weeks), but not with later (32-36 weeks) preterm. Other findings included that prolonged standing and heavy lifting were weak predictors of preterm birth.

Physiological and behavioural response patterns at work among hospital nurses
Nurses wore monitors for one 12-hour day shift to record their heart rate and work pace, which were used to calculate energy expenditure. The study concluded that a nursing workload of 12-hour shifts has a negative physiological impact on hospital nurses.

Prevalence and risk factors for bloodborne exposure and infection in correctional healthcare workers
NIOSH researchers examined how well the guidance for reducing exposures to bloodborne pathogens was being followed in correctional healthcare. Room for improvement was noted in involving front-line workers in evaluating and selecting safer medical devices and in updating and maintaining required exposure control plans.

Sharps injuries and other blood and body fluid exposures among home health care nurses and aides
Results of surveys and workplace-based surveillance revealed that sharps and other blood and body fluid exposures are serious hazards for home health care nurses and aides.

Suggestions for preventing musculoskeletal disorders in home healthcare workers part 1: lift and transfer assistance for partially weight-bearing home care patients
The article describes ways to help patients with higher upper body strength or weight-bearing ability, as well as equipment to help prevent muscle and bone injury of home healthcare workers.

There's no place like home: a qualitative study of the working conditions of home health care providers
This study described the work experience and hazards of home health care providers, with a focus on risk factors for bloodborne pathogen exposures. The study found home health care providers face serious work-related hazards, including violence in neighborhoods and homes, lack of workstations, heavy patient lifting, improper disposal of dressings or sharp medical devices, and high productivity demands.

Violence at the workplace increases the risk of musculoskeletal pain among nursing home workers
When 920 clinical nursing home workers completed questionnaires on muscle and joint pain and exposure to physical assaults at work, results found an association between physical assaults and muscle and joint pain. Findings suggested the need to address violence as a workplace hazard.

Work schedule during pregnancy and spontaneous abortion
This study looked at whether work schedule can affect the risk of miscarriage in U.S. nurses. Researchers found night work and long work hours may be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women in the Labor Force: A Databook. 2007.
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