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Many healthcare workers encounter situations that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like muscle strain and joint pain. The study of ergonomics includes, among other things, the system of tools and practices that help workers avoid these dangers. This online training course explains best practices for good ergonomics in healthcare facilities like hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, like nursing homes.
What are the governing regulations? Since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Act of 1970, OSHA has published thousands of regulations governing workplace safety in general, including healthcare ergonomics. Workplaces must create safe environments with all the appropriate equipment for workers to do their jobs safely. Implicit in this mandate is educating workers on the risks of MSDs and how to avoid them.
Who must take this training? Physicians, nurses, physical therapists, technicians, and related professions should all understand the ergonomics hazards in healthcare. For instance, moving patients safely protects healthcare workers and contributes to better outcomes for the patients themselves. Workers who perform tasks that may cause MSDs should take specialized healthcare ergonomics safety training.
Case Study: A prospective study about how diseases are controlled and spread was conducted in two units (140 beds and 57 nursing assistants) of a nursing home to demonstrate the efficacy of ergonomics in reducing back stress to nursing personnel. The total program involved determining the patient-handling tasks that the nursing assistants (NAs) perceived to be most stressful; performing an ergonomic evaluation of these tasks; and conducting a laboratory study to select the patient transferring devices that the NAs perceived to produce less physical stress than existing manual patient-handling methods. The intervention phase included training NAs in the use of devices, modifying toilets and shower rooms, and applying ergonomic techniques to patient care. At the completion of the intervention program, the investigators performed a post-intervention analysis. The incidence rate for back injuries prior to the intervention, which was 83 per 200,000 work-hours, decreased to 47 per 200,000 work-hours after the intervention. There were no injuries resulting in lost or restricted work days during the last four months of the post-intervention time frame.
Key Takeaway: This study illustrates that an appropriate ergonomic intervention program offers great promise in reducing physical stress and risk of low-back pain to nursing personnel.
OSHA healthcare regulations dictate that workers must receive training before exposure to hazardous conditions. This online certification meets the initial training requirements. Additionally, periodic retraining is important for maintaining a safe work environment. Healthcare facilities should conduct periodic reviews of workplace ergonomic hazards, including both employee procedures and work station design.