Healthcare is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy, employing over 18 million workers. Women represent nearly 80% of the healthcare work force. Health care workers face a wide range of hazards on the job, including needlestick injuries, back injuries, latex allergy, violence, and stress. Although it is possible to prevent or reduce healthcare worker exposure to these hazards, healthcare workers continue to experience injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Cases of nonfatal occupational injury and illness among to healthcare workers are among the highest of any industry sector.
Health care workers who prepare or administer hazardous drugs (e.g., those used for cancer therapy, and some antiviral drugs, hormone agents, and bioengineered drugs) or who work in areas where these drugs are used may be exposed to these agents in the workplace. About 8 million U.S. healthcare workers are potentially exposed to hazardous drugs, including pharmacy and nursing personnel, physicians, operating room personnel, environmental services workers, workers in research laboratories, veterinary care workers, and shipping and receiving personnel.