Psychiatric hospitals need safe working environments to promote productivity at the workplace. Even though occupational health and safety is not completely new to the corporate society, its scope is largely limited to the manufacturing/processing industries which are perceived to pose greater dangers to workers than the health sector. This paper sought to explore the experiences of frontline nursing personnel on the occupational health and safety conditions in two psychiatric hospitals in Ghana.
This is an exploratory cross-sectional study among 296 nurses and nurse-assistants in Accra (n = 164) and Pantang (n = 132) psychiatric hospitals using the proportional stratified random sampling technique. Multivariate Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression test was conducted to ascertain the determinants of staff exposure to occupational health hazards and the frequency of exposure to these occupational health hazards on daily basis.
Knowledge levels on occupational health hazards was high in Accra and Pantang psychiatric hospitals (i.e. 92 and 81% respectively), but barely 44% of the 296 interviewed staff in the two hospitals said they reported their most recent exposure to an occupational health hazard to hospital management. It was found that staff who worked for more years on the ward had higher likelihood of exposure to occupational health hazards than those who worked for lesser years (p = 0.002). The category of occupational health hazards reported most were the physical health hazards. Psychosocial hazards were the least reported health hazards. Frequency of exposure to occupational health hazards on daily basis was positively associated with work schedules of staff particularly, staff on routine day schedule (Coef = 4.49, p = 0.011) and those who alternated between day and night schedules (Coef = 4.48, p = 0.010).
Occupational health and safety conditions in the two hospitals were found to be generally poor. Even though majority of the staff knew about occupational health and safety, less than half of them reported exposure to workplace health hazards. Key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Mental Health Authority should intensify efforts towards effective enforcement of existing policies on safety in healthcare institutions, particularly psychiatric hospitals where exposure to occupational health hazards is more prevalent.