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High Levels of Musculoskeletal Injuries Among Healthcare Workers

Not only do healthcare workers (HCW) have stressful, fast-paced jobs, they also face many hazards during their work days. Among them are musculoskeletal disorders. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the incidence rate for these injuries is five times the average of all industries, with injuries to the shoulders and back the most widely reported.

These injuries are mostly due to overexertion. OSHA reports that repeated manual patient handling tasks, like transferring and repositioning patients, along with working in extremely awkward body postures are the major causes of overexertion. 

Patient handling is complicated. Each situation is different, and consequently, is difficult to gauge. Additionally, factors like unpredictable movements and the patient’s weight and current medical condition only increase the complexity.

OSHA recommends implementing a patient handling program utilizing mechanical equipment to reduce injuries and increase safety for both HCW and patients alike. They also provide guidelines for implementing a successful program:

  • Commitment from management at all levels–To provide visible support
  • A safe patient handling committee that involves frontline workers–Employees who provide direct patient care should be well represented
  • Hazard assessment–Address high risk units, areas, and tasks
  • Technology & prevention through design–Select appropriate equipment, devices, and methods
  • Education and training–Train HCW about all aspects of the program, including when and how to report injuries
  • Program evaluation–Establish procedures to assess the ongoing effectiveness

OSHA offers many resources to help and highlights success stories.

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