Texas health care workers should beware of workplace hazards

Medical workers may be exposed to infectious agents and/or hazardous chemicals each day. Employers are responsible for ensuring their employee’s safety while at work.

Millions of sick Americans visit health care clinics and hospitals each year, relying on medical professionals to diagnose and treat them. Medical professionals receive extensive training and take special precautions to ensure they do not acquire an illness from their sick and infectious client base. When a Texas company or employee fails to follow proper procedure, however, it may result in a medical professional becoming injured, exposed to a hazardous chemical or infected with a chronic, life-threatening illness.

Types of infectious disease transmission

There are three primary routes of disease transmission in U.S. healthcare settings that include droplet, contact and airborne, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Some infectious agents may be found in droplets, which can be transmitted through talking, coughing, sneezing, suctioning and intubation. If droplets come into contact with mucosal surfaces of the nose, mouth or eyes, the recipient may become infected as well.

Contact with an infected individual can be directly through skin-to-skin contact or indirectly by touching the same surface as the infected individual. Airborne transmission occurs when extremely small particles of the infectious agent remain in the air long enough for another person to inhale. OSHA enforces strict guidelines to limit a health care worker's exposure to infectious agents.

Exposure to workplace hazards

Not only do health care professionals work directly with patients, there are also employees behind the scenes who are responsible for culturing, testing and identifying various infectious agents. These employees are also at risk for exposure to a toxic or infectious agent if proper protocol is not followed. One person's error may lead to the injury or exposure of another medical professional. According to OSHA, all employers are responsible for ensuring their workers are safe in the workplace by committing to the following:

  • All laboratory employees must receive formal training to ensure they are familiar with all policies and procedures regarding the handling of certain samples.
  • All protective equipment, including fume hoods and biosafety cabinets, should be tested regularly to make sure that they are working properly.
  • New lab procedures, methods or techniques should be approved with the employer before being implemented.
  • All employers should have a chemical hygiene plan and a biological safety plan available to employees, telling them what to do if exposure to an infectious agent or hazardous chemical occurs.

When an employer does not follow or enforce mandatory safety guidelines, and an employee is harmed as a result, the employer may be held liable for their injuries.

When to contact an attorney

Health care workers who have been injured in the workplace may be eligible for compensation for their medical expenses, time taken off of work, as well as pain and suffering. An attorney can offer legal counsel to those who wish to seek compensation for their injuries.

Keywords: work, accident, injury