When most people think of hospital safety, they consider the safety of the patients. However, it turns out that working in a hospital is one of the most dangerous occupations around. Hospital staff in Pennsylvania face the risk of sharps injuries, bloodborne pathogen exposure and workplace violence. To make matters worse, most hospitals do not even meet OSHA requirements.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2013, one in five non-fatal occupational injuries occurred in the health care and social assistance industry. OSHA has found that musculoskeletal disorders in particular are common; in 2011, health care personnel reported seven times more musculoskeletal disorders than the national rate. These disorders include back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.

OSHA has been intensifying inspections of hospitals and issuing fines ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Its standards are clear. To prevent bloodborne pathogen exposure, for example, it requires management to draft written control plans, update them annually and make sure all employees are familiar with them. Management should also solicit input from employees who work around potentially infected sharps.

OSHA encourages the development of safety and health management systems, which not only reduce illnesses and injuries but also improve communications and workplace culture. This could help reduce workplace violence such as physical assaults and threats.

Hospital staff members who incur workplace injuries may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. All they have to do is show that the reported injuries are work related. A lawyer could assist with the filing process and mount an appeal if the claim is denied. Benefits, which are usually paid weekly or biweekly, can cover medical expenses as well as a portion of lost wages.