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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Occupational health and safety hazards: a literature review and an empirical study of a hospital’s employee injury experience from 1970 to 1976 Naruse, Alice Michiyo


Occupational health and safety concerns, though not new, have only recently emerged as vital factors in the economic and social life of Canadians at work. It appears that steps need to be taken by the health care system which has hitherto been motivated to care mainly for the sick, to channel more of its energy, resources and manpower towards the prevention of illness and accidents. To this end, this study was designed to investigate employee accidents in a health care facility in an attempt to determine causation by utilizing an epidemiologic model of host, agent and environment. It was hoped that these findings would lead to a model for planning better prevention programs. The study was divided into two parts. The first part reviews the early history of occupational health, the international scene and the Canadian experience. Some general concepts derived from the field of accident research proved useful in analyzing hospital employee injuries. It was found that there was little direct evidence of these concepts used in the health care field. The second part deals with the investigation of accident trends of hospital employees in a medium-size public general hospital in British Columbia. An epidemiologic study of 561 injuries that occurred over a seven-year period was undertaken to obtain comparative data as well as to determine some of the underlying causes of accidents. Examination of the variations in the frequency of accidents by departments, age groups, length of employment, time of day and year, location of accidents, type of accidents, nature of injury and parts of the body involved provided some insights on the employee and environmental determinants of accidents. Despite the high technology equipment and hazardous substances found in modern hospitals, very few accidents were recorded in areas where these were used. The great majority of injuries sustained are still the usual strains, cuts, bruises and burns, caused by over-exertion, sharp instruments, falls, and heat and steam. A recommendation arising out of this study would be to initiate comprehensive occupational health and safety services in all hospitals, to include three basic components; a hazard control program, an infection control program and an employee health service. This program should include a full range of activities relating to health promotion, health protection, prevention and counselling service, to more truly reflect the objectives of the World Health Organization's definition of occupational health: “The promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations; the prevention among workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions; the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; the placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physiological and psychological equipment and to summarize, the adaptation of work to man and each man to his job”.

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