Every occupation has its particular risks, and for many workers, musculoskeletal injuries from overexertion are regular occurrences. However, for some health care workers, the rate is two, three or even five times the average for other occupations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these injuries are the result of patient handling.
Who has the most risk?
Across medical environments, hospitals and nursing homes most frequently put workers in harm’s way with the need to manually reposition patients in their beds, or move them in and out of bed. Ambulance workers have the highest risk of musculoskeletal injuries from manual patient handling.
Why is patient handling so dangerous?
Most people have heard the advice to lift with the knees and keep the back straight. This tip is especially important when lifting heavy loads. To move reclining patients, though, it can be impossible for a single person to do the lifting or repositioning without leaning over the bed and lifting with the back.
Professionals and safety experts have done the math to calculate how much a person can safely lift at the angle and distance common in most patient handling situations. The answer is 35 pounds. A worker should not manually lift a person who weighs more than that.
Is there a safe alternative?
The key to moving patients safely is to reduce or eliminate the need for the worker to perform the task unassisted. Ergonomic principles dictate the need for mechanical equipment to lift and move patients. This can have the added benefit of making the patients more comfortable during the process.
Some facility administrators may see safety devices as unnecessary expenses. However, the cost in lost productivity may far outstrip the price tag of the equipment. Even more importantly, it will keep workers from suffering work injuries.