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.
Noma Agbonifo, CSP, MIIRSM, MSc, is an Occupational Safety and Ergonomics Trainee, Department of Environmental Health, College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Beverly Hittle, MSN, RN, is an Occupational Nursing Trainee, College of Nursing, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Rassull Suarez, MD, is an Occupational Medicine Resident, Department of Environmental Health, College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Kermit Davis, PhD, CPE, is an Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
Address for correspondence: Kermit Davis, PhD, CPE, Department of Environmental Health, University of Cincinnati, 423 Kettering Laboratory, 160 Panzeca Way, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0056 (firstname.lastname@example.org).