Worker Safety

This position statement was updated and combined with a Workplace Advocacy Position Statement on 11/7/2012.


  • The medical-surgical nurse should not tolerate violent actions, behaviors, or language in the workplace from any patient, co-worker, physician, visitor, or vendors. The nurse has the right to report workplace violence without fear of reprimand.
  • The health care employer should institute practices to reduce the risk of workplace violence, and establish appropriate reporting mechanisms for any infractions.
  • The health care employer must ensure availability of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for employee use as stipulated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Education for employees regarding organism transmission and appropriate PPE use should be ongoing.
  • The health care employer should provide protective systems to reduce the risk of medical-surgical nurse injury during use of intravenous (IV) devices and administration of parenteral medications. OSHA-approved disposal methods must be readily available and maintained for employee safety. In addition, health care employers should develop a culture of safety to prevent injury from needles and other sharp devices.
  • The health care employer should provide safe lift devices, as well as sufficient personnel in order to move patients safely and prevent injuries to health care workers. The employers must educate employees and determine their competency in safe patient handling.
  • The medical-surgical nurse is accountable for adherence to recognized safety protocols.


Threats to employee health and safety in the nursing workplace include physical violence, infectious disease, physical injury related to moving and repositioning patients, potential exposure to chemical and radiologic hazards, and sharps injuries (American Nurses Association [ANA], 2007).

According to McPhaul and Lipscomb (2004), "Workplace violence is one of the most complex and dangerous hazards facing nurses in today's health care environment" (¶ 1). Dangers to the medical-surgical nurse are related not only to the risk for patient-related violence, but also to the frequent lack of strong violence prevention efforts by health care employers and regulators. Other work-related risks also often go unrecognized and unaddressed by health care employers. These include patient handling tasks, which place substantial biomechanical stress on the health care worker (Nelson & Baptiste, 2004).


AMSN supports efforts to develop and maintain a safe workplace for the medical-surgical nurse and other health care personnel. Education and competency verification in injury prevention strategies are central to these efforts.


Workplace violence is any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting.

Sharps injury (needle stick injury) is an injury from a needle or any other sharp device that has been contaminated with blood or other body fluid and penetrates the skin.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes devices and clothing designed to be worn for the protection or safety of an individual working in potentially hazardous areas or performing potentially hazardous tasks.


American Nurses Association. (2007). Health care worker safety. Retrieved September 10, 2009, from

McPhaul, K. M., & Lipscomb, J. A. (2004). Workplace violence in health care: Recognized but not regulated. Online Journal in Nursing, 9(3). Retrieved September 10, 2009, from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Workbook for designing, implementing and evaluating a sharps injury prevention program. Retrieved September 10, 2009, from

Nelson, A., & Baptiste, A. S. (2004). Evidence-based practices for safe patient handling and movement. Online Journal in Nursing, 9(3). Retrieved September 10, 2009, from

U. S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Personal protective equipment (PPE): Standards. Retrieved September 10, 2009, from