Body Mechanics for Healthcare Staff

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A major component of a healthcare professional’s daily routine is picking up and moving patients. Executing this task requires both excellent technique and physical stamina. When a patient lift is improperly applied, strain injuries can be incurred. Strain injuries can occur in the back, knee, neck, shoulder, and wrist and are the most common form of injury for health care professionals. Using proper body mechanics and lifting strategy, employees can significantly reduce the risk of injury.

Use of a proper patient lifting technique is the most important weapon in avoiding strain injury. Gait belts are essential in assisting health care professionals move patients from a sitting to a standing position. Gait belts, made of a durable fiber, are wrapped around the patient’s waist, giving the healthcare professional an easy grip to pull the patient upward. Along with using a gate belt, healthcare professionals should always brief the patient on how the lift will proceed. This gives the healthcare professional time to think through the lifting process and informs the patient on what he/she will be required to do during the lift.

When lifting, the health care professional or aide must keep his/her back strait and keep the patient close to the body. The aide must get low, bending his/her legs and knees as he/she lifts the patient. The leg muscles and knees will perform the brunt of the lift, reducing the force on the lower back and upper torso. The patient can assist in the lift by placing his/her arms around the healthcare professional’s torso, however, patients should never wrap their arms around an aide’s neck. When holding on to the aide’s torso is not possible, patients should always hold the care giver’s hand and never the wrist. The care givers hand should always be held in a neutral position to avoid muscle strain.

It is also important to avoid twisting while lifting. Employees should pivot with their whole body as opposed to twisting at the waist to move a patient from a bed to a wheelchair or vise versa. Twisting the spine is a quick and painful way to obtain a back injury.

A lift device should be used when the weight of an individual is too much for a healthcare professional to handle or several aides to handle. Lifts can also aide in getting a patient in and out of a bathtub. All aides should be trained in the proper use of the lift device located inside their facility.

There are many other tasks that can lead to an injury in the health care profession. Health care professionals should always push carts rather than pull them. Pushing as opposed to pulling a cart keeps the back from absorbing the weight of the cart and its contents, thus deterring injury. Reaching for stored overhead items can also place strain on the back. To avoid injury lighter items should be stored high and heavier items should be stored at waist height or below. Step ladders should always be used when retrieving items from high shelves or cabinets.

Health care professionals should avoid placing their knees on a patient’s bed or placing their knees against the knees of a patient to pull them upward. Aide’s should instead stagger the legs to get closer to the patient and then lift him/her using a gait belt and proper lifting technique.

Exercise, stretching, and weight training are some precautionary tools that can prepare the body for the physical demands of patient care. Exercises targeting all the major muscle groups strengthen and tone the body and help decrease the likelihood of injury significantly. Stretching also prepares the muscles, ligaments, and joints for activity. Stretching before a shift is always recommended. Professionals should consult a physician before beginning any sort of exercise regimen.

Working in the healthcare setting is demanding on one’s body. With proper technique and exercise one should be able to avoid an injury in the workplace. For further assistance with establishing a safety program or training in a nursing home please contact WCF Insurance. Additional information on nursing home safety can also be found on OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/nursinghome/index.html

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
385.351.8103

Ask a Safety Consultant

https://www.osha.gov
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/

NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes or standards.

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