Health and Safety Risks Grow for Home Care Workers

If you’re familiar with the home care industry, it should come as no surprise that home health aides, personal care attendants, and certified nursing aides topped the lists for workplace injuries, illness, and violence.

Providing supports and services to individuals can be hard work. For most home care workers, the demands of the job are already exacerbated by low pay, few or no benefits, inconsistent scheduling and wages, and limited supports; never mind an elevated risk of on-the-job injury, illness, and violence.

The AFL-CIO’s recent report, Death on the Job (25th Edition), provides national and state profiles of worker health and safety and sheds light on the dangers faced by home care workers.

When it comes to serious workplace injuries, nursing assistants, who often work in care facilities, experienced nearly 21,000 musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that involved days away from work—second only to laborers/freight movers. Personal care aides, who work in individuals’ homes, experienced 5,300 serious MSDs.

It is likely that home care workers’ injuries are severely underreported, because numerous studies have shown that government counts of work-related injuries and illnesses are underestimated by as much as 69 percent.*

Personal care aides are now the 3rd-highest-ranking occupation for lost-time injuries resulting from workplace violence.

Since 2005, the rate of violence in home health services has increased by 130 percent. Care recipients were responsible for 49 percent of these reported injuries.

All working people have the right to a safe workplace—whether that workplace is a facility or someone’s home. To help combat unsafe workplaces for personal care workers, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a health and safety training guide, Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others, and online modules that help home care workers, their employers and clients identify safety risks and develop effective strategies for assuring safe and healthy environments. These tools for trainers and resources for home care workers aim to protect workers from common hazards and include strategies for dealing with threatening behaviors.

Employers must recognize their responsibility to provide a workplace safe from injury and violence by providing training, safety policies, and safeguards. Home care workers make it possible for individuals to remain safely at home. It’s time for employers to promise the same.

* Leigh, J. P., Marcin, J.P. and Miller, T.R., “An Estimate of the U.S. Government’s Undercount of Nonfatal Occupational Injuries,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 46, No. 1, January 2004.

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