The risks of occupational accidents among medical professionals are very numerous and the circumstances vary according to the speciality. They include road accidents in the case of general practitioners, burns suffered by operating room personnel as a result of explosions in operating theatres, septic cuts and scratches for biologists and anatomo-pathologists, the danger of septic liquid or vaccines entering the eyes of general practitioners, surgeons, pediatricians, etc. and their assistants, syphilis and AIDS infections among gynecologists and obstetricians, accidental internal and external irradiation and contamination among radiologists, dentists, dental technicians and physicians working in research laboratories, blows and wounds inflicted on psychiatrists and psychologists by delirious or violent patients, or bites and scratches from test animals. Occupational diseases can be classed under four main headings: infections and contaminations, disorders due to radiation, occupational dermatitis, and psychological disturbances.
The possibility of contagion is considerable owing to contacts with patients and the need to handle septic objects. The incidence of virus hepatitis among physicians is between 15 and 40 times greater than in the whole of the population. Doctors working in hospitals and clinics and those in laboratories are the more exposed than those in private practice.
The rates of alcoholism and drug abuse, mental illness and suicide among health care workers, especially physicians, are elevated significantly beyond that of the general population. An estimated 40 percent of psychiatric therapists are actually attacked by their clients. Mental health professionals daily listen to a succession of serious problems and grim world views. They kill themselves at an unusually high rate: almost twice that of physicians. Occupational stress is considered as high as for air traffic controllers.