Occupational Exposures of Home Healthcare Workers

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Abstract

Population demographics in the United States are rapidly changing with increased dependence on home healthcare (HHC) by an aging population, patients suffering from chronic diseases, and inability to perform activities of daily living. Despite the occupational injury rates for HHC workers (HHCW) being higher than the national average, an understanding of the occupational safety and health experiences and exposures of HHCW is limited. The purpose of this study was to understand the health and safety risk factors for HHCW. One-on-one interviews were conducted with HHCW to elicit frequency of daily occupational exposures to hazards and risk factors during visits to patients' homes. Approximately 67% of the study population was over 40 years old and mostly obese, potentially increasing risk for injury. HHCW routinely perform physical tasks with increased risk for occupational musculoskeletal injuries. Exposures to drug residue from dispensing oral medications and anticancer medications and exposure to potentially infectious agents and cleaning chemicals used for infection prevention were reported. The majority of HHCW were also exposed to secondhand smoke and occasionally experienced violence. Developing and implementing intervention strategies that address engineering controls, establish employee safety-related policies, provide training and retraining, promote a healthy lifestyle among HHCW, and providing suitable personal protective equipment may help to decrease occupational injury rates.

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