Manual Lifting and Handling injuries

Healthcare is just one industry where workers are at risk for injuries due to manual lifts. These injuries are preventable through a combination of training, automated equipment and policy changes.

Healthcare Workers Are at a Greater Risk for Manual Lift Injuries

According to OSHA, “Caregivers and patients face many related hazards. For example, manual lifting can cause caregiver injury and put patients at risk of falls, fractures, bruises, and skin tears. Fear or reluctance to move patients can lead to pressure ulcers.”

Healthcare is a large and fast-growing sector of the US economy. Over 18,000,000 people, nearly 80% of whom are women, work in healthcare. Non-fatal injury and illness within the healthcare industry is among the highest in the nation, according to the CDC.

Some of the most common injuries include strains and sprains, and many of these injuries come from attempting to lift patients or equipment.

What Causes Back Injuries?

Back and neck injuries in health care are commonly caused by pushing, pulling, and lifting objects over long periods.

Risk factors for back injuries in health care include:

  • Force: this is the effort it takes to move, lift, or reposition an object or patient
  • Repetition: how often these movements are performed
  • Awkward positions: lifting while the body is bent, stooped, twisted or in an odd position strains muscles and joints

Mandatory overtime and staff shortages often cause healthcare workers to work extended hours, which can increase the rate of back injuries. Policy changes are needed to reduce the risk of fatigue that can increase the exposure of both patients and workers to illness and injury.

Procedure Changes to Prevent Injuries

One of the ways to prevent the amount of lifting is changing the procedures used to manage these tasks. Positive changes include using automated equipment and using teamwork to complete these tasks.

“The use of a mobile lift table ensures the employees optimal working conditions with ideal working height, avoiding repetitive heavy lifting and reducing the risk of health issues. The company will have pleased and satisfied employees, less sick leaves, improved productivity and economy,” according to Saxlift, a lift manufacturer.

The following policies and procedures can also reduce the risk of manual lift injuries:

  • Using teams instead of individuals to move patients is safer for both the patient and staff. Lifting teams often use automated lift equipment.
  • Increased staffing may cost more money, however, the reduction in lost hours and employee turnover due to injury offsets the additional cost.
  • Training workers to properly use mechanical devices and lift techniques for manual lifts greatly reduces the risk of injury.
  • Implementing new single person lift policies can also reduce the risk of injury.
  • Workers who regularly perform lifts should regularly be assigned to alternate job responsibilities that don’t require heavy lifting
  • Breaks should be enforced to ensure that workers are able to rest their backs.

There are many ways to reduce the risk of injury to health care workers. Medical facilities should write out these policies and regularly enforce them. When workers are hurt on the job, no one wins. That’s why it’s worthwhile to invest in equipment they can prevent manual lift injuries.