Ergonomics Musculoskeletal disorders Health care/social assistance Health Care Workers

Ergo group calls for OSHA standard on MSDs in health care


Photo: SolStock/iStockphoto

Washington — An OSHA standard on safe patient handling and mobility could reduce musculoskeletal disorders among health care workers, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society says in a new policy statement.

According to HFES research, more than half of health care workers who interact with patients report MSD-related pain and discomfort. That group includes nurses, nursing assistants, surgeons and imaging technologists.

To help the industry protect and retain workers, HFES says OSHA should develop and implement a standard that requires all health care facilities responsible for moving patients/residents to have in place a program that prioritizes the use of lifting and transferring equipment.

The policy statement also calls on OSHA to:

  • Develop and implement grant programs that offer incentives for purchasing safe patient handling equipment in both health care facilities and schools/colleges that train future health care workers.
  • Develop programs that allow facilities with well-developed safe patient handling programs to share resources and best practices with others in the industry.
  • Promote education and training as part of the curriculum at colleges and universities, including the safe use and selection of patient handling devices and equipment.
  • Promote the accurate measurement of MSDs by adding a corresponding category to current injury and illness types on OSHA’s 300 Form.

Further, HFES recommends increasing NIOSH funding to help expand MSD research efforts, advance the research of methods that improve the accuracy of MSD injury reporting, examine the most effective training methods in nursing schools and health care facilities, research new technologies, and support NIOSH education research centers to grow the number of researchers focused on reducing MSDs.

“The health care sector has the highest occurrence of MSDs of any industry sector, with overexertion in lifting being a primary exposure,” HFES President Carolyn Sommerich said in a press release. “This is primarily due to manual patient handling, which involves lifting, moving and repositioning patients.”

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