Injuries and Illness, Personnel Safety

NIOSH Looks at Homecare Worker Injuries

Over a five-year period (2015 to 2020), 117,000 homecare workers were treated in emergency departments for work-related injuries, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced February 6 in the latest edition of its eNews publication. The recently completed research found that nearly all injured workers (93%) were female.

Home health and personal care workers monitor the condition of people, often elderly, with chronic illnesses or disabilities and assist them with daily living activities. They often work alone with their clients in private homes, leading to unique safety challenges.

More than half of the injuries (52%) were from overexertion and repetitive motions. Falls, slips, and trips accounted for 15% of injuries, and violent acts by people or animals also accounted for 15% of injuries.

Homecare work is a growing occupation. Approximately 3.6 million home health and personal care aides were employed in the United States in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That number is projected to increase by 25% to 4.6 million workers by 2031.

As the number of homecare workers continues to grow, putting more workers at risk for injury, more research is needed to understand and prevent the factors contributing to work-related injury risk among homecare workers, according to NIOSH.

Researchers used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System—Occupational Supplement (NEISS-Work). NEISS-Work, supported by a partnership between NIOSH and the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), collects information on work-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments.

The study appears in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Spotlight on NIOSH research into robotics in construction

The February edition of NIOSH’s eNews also featured a note from NIOSH Director John Howard highlighting the work of the institute’s Center for Occupational Robotics Research. NIOSH’s robotics research crosses multiple work sectors, including an area of specific focus on robots in construction.

As the construction industry, which employs about 11.4 million workers, has some of the highest numbers of fatalities and injuries among all industries, the industry is a natural fit for the use of robots to minimize workers’ risks.

Robotic technologies used in construction include masonry robots to lay bricks, demolition robots to perform building demolition, and drones to perform inspections at elevation.

The NIOSH Robotics Center uses virtual reality (VR) to identify and prevent potential hazards in the construction industry. The research includes using VR to identify hazards and assess the machine-, human-, and environment-related factors of using demolition robots.

Researchers also use VR to examine drone use in construction and its effects on workers at heights. VR can help determine if using drones distracts workers at height, including evaluating the effect of drone use on worker attention, as well as physiological responses.

NIOSH and its partners recently hosted a “Safe Human-Robot Interaction in Construction” webinar. Webinar topics included:

  • Innovative field robotics applications,
  • Funding opportunities for human-robot interaction in construction,
  • Removing barriers to construction work through remote construction operations,
  • Exploring the biomechanics of human-robot collaboration, and
  • Identifying special safety considerations for the future of increased automation in construction.

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