March 15, 2022

Indiana health workers saw spike in workplace injury, illness in 2020


Of the injuries or illnesses in health care, 73 percent were categorized as "exposure to harmful substances or environments." - (Justin Hicks/IPB News)

Of the injuries or illnesses in health care, 73 percent were categorized as "exposure to harmful substances or environments."

(Justin Hicks/IPB News)

Health care workers in Indiana saw a noticeable jump in workplace injuries and illness in 2020, according to OSHA data. Much of that was likely due to the exposure doctors and nurses had due to COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic.

Overall, only about 3 in every 100 full-time workers had an on-the-job injury or illness in Indiana, continuing a years-long decline. But, meanwhile, about 7 out of 100 health care workers had a work-related incident — a 50 percent increase from the year before.

That trend isn't unique to Indiana. The national incidence rate for health care workers also increased significantly to put both state and national measurements at more-than-a-decade highs.

READ MORE: As nurses demand higher pay, nursing homes and staffing agencies clash on the price

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Kristin VanSoest, president of Indianapolis-based Safety Resources Incorporated, said it’s worth noting that in most industries other than health care, it was really hard to prove if a COVID-19 infection came from work and therefore needed to be reported.

“If my construction worker or my factory worker were to get COVID, that’s not [necessarily] a work-related situation,” she said. “In health care, that’s a work-related illness.”

Of the injuries or illnesses in health care, 73 percent were categorized as "exposure to harmful substances or environments." The second-highest category, "overexertion and bodily reaction," only made up 14 percent of incidents.

The spike was most pronounced in Indiana skilled nursing facilities, where about 18 percent of workers had a recordable incident, up more than 11 percentage points from the year before.

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.

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