Alaska has the fastest growing senior population in the nation. As the number of older Alaskans goes up, so does the demand for professionals to care for them, but that can be a risky business.

According to the Alaska Department of Labor, injury rates in health care are higher than in construction, at 4.8 and 3.9 percent respectively. 

Common workplace hazards include trips and falls, exposure to blood born pathogens and even workplace violence.

As more people enter the health care workforce, Krystyna Markiewicz, chief of occupational safety and health for the department, said the rate of injury will rise.

"I think the workplace violence injuries are on the rise," Markiewicz said of the industry now. 

The Dept. of Labor is offering free and confidential consultation for health care employers, without risking penalties or citation. The new service is part of the department's five year strategic plan

"Most accidents are preventable, so we have to speak up, they have to speak up [and] let us know, and let us help them," said Markiewicz. "We just want to make sure that employees are not hurt."

It's more than a moral obligation. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires all employers provide their employees with a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards.

Employers seeking assistance, or employees who think they may be exposed to a hazard can call Alaska Occupational Safety and Health at 907-269-4955, or visit the department's website at labor.state.ak.us.

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