Fact Sheet: Lifting and Handling Hazards and Solutions in Senior Living Communities

Staff at senior living communities (SLCs) experience some of the highest workplace injury rates of all industries, right up there with manufacturing, mining, forestry and logging. Consider these statistics:
 

  • Healthcare workers suffer 7 times more musculoskeletal injuries than workers in most other industries. These injuries are caused by resident handling, which includes manual lifting, moving and repositioning.
  • In 2016 all of private industry had a Days Away and Restricted Time (DART) rate of 1.6, while nursing homes and CCRCs rated 4.2 and 4.0, respectively.
    These scores, monitored by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), are based on a facility’s overall safety and injury prevention programs, with regard to recordable injuries, lost-time injuries and restricted duty claims. The “rate” means that for every 100 full-time employees (FTEs), 4.2 or 4.0, respectively, incur a work injury that is serious enough to involve lost time, restricted duty or result in permanent impairment.
  • Almost 50 percent of all nursing home injuries are the result of overexertion.

 

Several factors contribute to caregiver injuries, including:

  • Lifting with extended arms
  • Lifting near the floor
  • Lifting and sitting or kneeling
  • Lifting with the trunk twisted or with the load off to the side of the body
  • Lifting with one hand
  • Lifting in a restricted space
  • Awkward positioning
  • Forceful exertion
  • Repetition
  • Lifting during a shift lasting more than 8 hours

 

Although the National Institute of Safety and Health’s proposed lifting limit is 35 pounds, this number was never intended to be applied to SLCs or resident handling tasks. In fact, the goal of a safe patient lift program is to eliminate manual lifting.

 

Tips and Techniques for Developing a Safer Lifting Program

 

Eliminate manual lifting. This can be achieved a few ways:

  • An accurate assessment of the task to be performed that includes:
    • Patient cooperativeness
    • Degree of patient mobility
    • Available assistive equipment and devices
    • Appropriate number of available staff who are clear on the task at hand
  • Proper use of lift equipment. Only use equipment designed for a specific lift. Sling and lift hanger bars are not interchangeable.
  • Modified work practices

 

Review policies and procedures for lifting and/or transferring residents.

    • Give staff an opportunity to comment on policies and procedures.
    • Address “decision-logic” for determining the need to lift and selecting the appropriate lift or device.
    • Consistently enforce policies.
       

Make multiple types of lift, transfer or repositioning devices available in convenient locations.

One type will not serve all needs. Lifting devices include:

  • Draw or transfer sheets
  • Slide boards
  • Gait belts or transfer belts
  • Mechanical lifts
    • Total body lift for patients who are totally dependent
    • Stand-assist lifts for movement to and from chairs, toilets, beds, and into and out of showers
    • Compact lifts, which are smaller versions of other lifts
    • Walking lifts pushed along by patients as they walk
  • Repositioning aids
    • Roller boards
    • Trapeze bars
       

Provide and document comprehensive training on safe lifting.

This topic should be taught to new hires, and during routine and periodic training.

 

Review the OSHA 300 Log and discuss injuries that result in patient-handling injuries.

How could the injury have been prevented?

 

Evaluate recordkeeping practices.

Look for trends in injury types and staff members.

 

Review new injury events and develop countermeasures:

  • Demonstrate care and concern for the injured worker.
  • Investigate all injuries and near misses.
  • Communicate with staff and discuss the causes of injury and future plans for prevention. 
  • Solicit staff feedback as to what they think may have contributed, or could prevent future injuries.

 

Disclaimer: The material contained herein provides risk management guidance with respect to lifting hazards.

 

 

© 2018 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved.This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.