Low back injuries are the leading occupational health problem affecting healthcare
workers and are increasing among nurses and nurses’ assistants. Hospitals and nursing
homes are the top two workplaces for days away from work due to back injuries. The
primary risk factor for low back disorders among nursing personnel is lifting and
transferring of patients. Other jobs at risk for musculoskeletal injury include
transport workers, housekeeping and environmental services. The NIOSH lifting equation
indicates that the average worker can routinely lift no more than 51 pounds. Healthcare
workers are routinely asked to lift beyond safe loads without adequate staffing
support and lack access to lifting devices.
According to research conducted at the University of Wisconsin, of the 38% of nurses
with back injuries, 12% are considering leaving the profession thus contributing
to the current nursing shortage. The 1996 Institute of Medicine Report: Nurse Staffing
in Hospitals and Nursing Homes: Is it adequate?, discusses the relationship between
staffing and back injuries and recommends lifting devices and teams.
From 'Occupational Health and Safety,' by Susan Wilburn, MPH,
Visit WSNA's Safe Patient Handling page for more.
On March 8, 2006, The Washington State Legislature passed legislation (House Bill
1672) to promote safe patient handling and prevent workplace injuries amongst registered
nurses and health care workers. Find out more about this law, and how you can ensure that it is properly implemented in your workplace.
From the American Journal of Nursing
Giving a Lift to Nursing Education
Teaching tomorrow's nurses best-practice Patient Handling Skills
The OSHA General Duty Clause
Protecting workers in the absence of a regulation
On the Web
The American Nurses Association's Handle With Care Campaign