March 06 2013 Blog - Lifting safely in healthcare

Let’s talk about one of the most common issues with healthcare workers – musculoskeletal injuries. This is a big one, so make sure you check back for additional posts on this subject.

What does that even mean?

A musculoskeletal injury is an injury which is generally caused by repetitive stress. It’s most commonly an injury to the back or shoulder area, but it can involve:

• Muscles
• Tendons
• Cartilage
• Joints
• Bones
• Blood vessels

Usually, this type of injury occurs from lifting, pushing, pulling and or twisting issues in the workplace. In the healthcare world, this means patient handling.  Everything from showering to sheet changes involves patient handling, and each time a patient needs to be moved it’s a risk for both the worker and the patient.

How large is the issue?

It’s a serious problem. OSHA estimates back injuries alone account for $20 billion dollars of expense and lost time in the healthcare industry. In additional to the monetary costs, the risks involved in getting injured in healthcare are up to seven times higher than other industries – and that kind of risk leads to a high turnover rate.
The most hazardous healthcare arena, due to space constraints and often working alone, is home healthcare. How bad is turnover in home healthcare? According to the CDC, in certain parts of the country home healthcare workers have had a reported turnover rate as high as 75 percent!

What can be done?

Like you’ve heard time and time again, you do need to lift with your legs and not with your back. Proper body mechanics really do help. However, simply lifting the right way often isn’t enough to stay safe. Healthcare workers are often in situations where they are required to lift greater weight than is considered safe by OSHA standards. Additionally, patients don’t have convenient handholds, are often not able to assist because of physical or mental limitations and there’s always the possibility that a patient will be uncooperative. 

To stay safe, mechanical lift assistance is essential. In part two, we’ll cover creating a culture of safety in greater detail.

Stay Safe,
Indiana Department of Labor