Did you know that if your occupation is nursing, your job is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in Kansas? As a medical worker, you spend your days in an environment that is a potential source for contracting any one of many diseases or suffering an injury. Along with many other possible physical injuries, such as musculoskeletal trauma, you may face risks of suffering needle-stick wounds, cuts, burns, electrical shocks and more.
Furthermore, your emotional balance can be at risk when you spend time with severely ill patients or life-and-death situations. At these times, you might be most vulnerable to forget about protecting yourself from the unique hazards of the area in which you work.
Some of the unique hazards of the surgical suite
While the physical hazards of lifting and moving patients receive a lot of attention, those threatening the safety of nurses in surgery rooms may be less recognized. If you familiarize yourself with the following potential hazards you can protect yourself from harm:
- Surgical smoke -- The use of electrosurgical equipment, such as lasers, to destroy tissues creates smoke that could contain several toxic materials including hydrogen cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, viruses, and live or dead cellular material. Potential health consequences could range from throat, nose and eye irritation to asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
- Laser hazards -- Skin burns and eye injuries can result from exposure to laser beams.
- Blood-borne pathogens -- As a surgical worker, you will be at risk of exposure to infectious materials that could result in viral infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
- Latex allergy -- Catheters, tubing and gloves contain latex, and frequent exposure can cause an allergy to latex.
- Compressed gases -- The sources of compressed gases in surgical units can be either individual cylinders or fixed pipe systems. Regardless, both pose hazards that could include toxicity, fires and explosions.
- Physical postures -- Your job in the surgical setting may require you to spend long periods in awkward body postures in which you must remain static. Not only can prolonged standing on hard surfaces cause pain in your legs and feet but muscle fatigue can set in, and the lack of movements can cause blood pooling in the lower extremities.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides strict safety regulations to protect surgical workers from the impact of all the above hazards. It is the responsibility of the hospital management to ensure compliance with those rules to protect employees. However, if you suffer injuries in the line of your work in the surgical ward, you can pursue financial relief through the workers' compensation insurance program. The benefits typically cover medical expenses and a portion of lost income.