Are healthcare professionals and workers immune to health hazards? In fact, the healthcare sector ranks quite high in the hierarchy of hazards, with the possibility of exposure to radiation, chemicals, infections and muscular-skeletal risks, say experts.
“In fact, even transport is lower in health hazards than healthcare sector. It is important to provide the best protective mechanism possible for employees in a healthcare setting,” D.J. Christopher, chairman of Occupational Health and Safety Committee, Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore said.
On Tuesday, as the World Day for Safety and Health at Work was observed at CMC, it came as a reminder for professionals to ensure that safety standards are adhered to including basic things such as when hands should be washed.
Faced with different kinds of risks, it was necessary to sensitise staff about hazards, occupational health and safety.
“Healthcare workers are exposed to infections as patients congregate at the hospital. This includes flu that is common and easily contagious and also tuberculosis,” he said.
Similarly, medical science uses various forms of radiation, the commonest being X-ray. “They are exposed to radiation for a prolonged period of time, and hence have to wear protection gear such as lead aprons,” he explained.
The staff involved in use of radiation has to mandatorily wear a device – dosimeter – that measures exposure to radiation. This device is sent for reading every month to check the exposure levels. Employees are prevented from performing the tasks in radiation if they had already cross critical levels.
Exposure to noise is another hazard. People who constantly work near generators are also being checked for their hearing and have been asked to wear protective gear such as ear muffs. Similar is back and neck pain for staff who push trolleys and shift patients in stretches, secretaries and those engaged in laundry.
But is occupation health a responsibility of the administration? Hardly is the answer as it rests with each individual employee.
As Sunil Chandy, Director of CMC, puts it, “Safety is a highly personalised issue. We provided helmets for staff at a concessional rate. But only 30 per cent of those who received them are wearing it. Each one should be driven by the pressure to be safe.”
He said it was the responsibility of the management to provide gear necessary for safety such as preventing needle stick injuries in hospitals.
C. Eapen, medical superintendent, said staff and students working in a hospital were also exposed to tuberculosis.
M.S. Seshadri, former head, Department of Endocrinology, CMC, said there was a need to see where problems could arise in a set up and administrations should ensure that employees learn responsibility over a period of time.
As part of the celebration, stalls were put up to throw light on the various hazards in a healthcare set up and measures to stay safe. This also included stress relief, washing hands for safety and handling of biomedical waste.