It is agreed by all that the current state of African health systems leave much to be desired. African health systems, as a whole, are crippled right from public health education and other primary prevention methods through to tertiary prevention methods. As a result of the consistent lack of generational thinkers and planners; as a result of political leaders lacking the basic sense of priority to invest more resources is their nation’s state of health, we perish needlessly. “Health is the primary duty of life”, as eloquently relayed in Lady Bracknell’s monologue by Oscar Wilde in ‘The importance of being earnest”. Health is a priority; even more so is the health of the health provider. It is also worth noting also that we have so few of such persons.
It is awry that the health sector, whose main objective is to the take care of the sick and stand against anything that proves detrimental to the wellbeing of the society, is itself a “hazard-filled” field for the workers it employs. The goals of the health sector should include “to foster a safe healthy work environment” and to protect it workers, employers, customers, and many others who might be affected by the workplace environment.
- Hazards and Challenges of the health sector.
Challenges arise in pursuing protections for the healthcare workers in the health sector, in view of this our highly complex and hazardous work environment. Predilection exists within the health sector and health community itself concurs to limit both the awareness of hazards that do exist and the approaches used to secure a safe job.
There are millions of workers under the banner headline of the health sector. These workers represent different occupations under the sector that expose them to a variety of hazards.
In addition to the medical staff, large healthcare facilities are embraced by a wide variety of trades that have health and safety hazards associated with them. These include medical equipment, housekeeping, mechanical maintenance, food service, laundry and administrative staff.
For example, doctors confront such potential hazards as exposure to infectious diseases and toxic substances, radiation exposure and stress, the one we hardly take cognizance of.
Why is hazard awareness lacking?
The health sector is often imagined by the public to be clean and free of hazards.
- Hazard classes
This is caused by physical agents or physical forms of energy
Examples: Radiation, lasers, noise, extreme temperature, electrical energy
Effects: Burns, cancer, physical and psychological trauma
– Wearing proper personal protective equipment, including hearing protection where necessary.
– Not entering restricted radiation areas, unless trained and authorized.
This is caused by chemical substances that potentially toxic, including medications, solutions and gases.
Examples: Hazardous anticancer drugs, sterilants, disinfectants, hormones, antineoplastic, anesthetic gases, latex gloves, aerosolized medications and hazardous waste.
Effects: Irritation, asthma, allergy, dermatitis, cancer, reproductive effects e.g. spontaneous abortion
– Wear proper personal protective equipment.
– Dispose of hazardous agents in proper containers.
– Avoid recapping needles.
– Use tools to apply or handle hazardous agents.
This is caused by infectious agents, such as bacteria, fungi, virus or parasites, which may be transmitted through air, needle-stick injuries or body contact
Examples: Influenza, hepatitis B and C, HIV
Health effects: HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis, liver damage and other diseases
This is caused by factors in the work environment that cause musculoskeletal injuries, strain, discomfort, bad postures
Examples: Lifting and moving patients, tripping or slipping and fall hazards
Health effects: Musculoskeletal disorders, strain injury, fracture, wound, upper and lower extremity injuries
– Provide assist devices for lifting.
– Encourage team lifts or start a no-lift program.
This can be caused by stressful work conditions, threats of physical violence, work organization, shift work
Examples: Unsafe staffing, workplace threats, bullying, physical violence
Health effects: Psychological stress, physical injury
– Regular staff meetings to share feelings and innovative ideas.
– Reasonable shift schedules.
– Organized and efficient work functions and environment.
The health care workforce is embraced daily with harm from exposure to agents encountered in this unique and complex workplace. Understanding the real concept of occupational hazards in our Health sector and taking the precautions and safety measures into practice would be of huge gain both to the employers and the employees.
We implore the health sector to do anything within its reach to protect and retain the vital health workforce, which is a fundamental pillar of all health systems.
ARTICLE BY: AJEKIIGBE VICTOR OLUWATOMIWA
SCHOOL: LADOKE AKINTOLA UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, OGBOMOSHO, OYO STATE, NIGERIA.
CONTACT: Victorajekiigbe@gmail.com +2347066514358