Patient Handling & Ergonomics

Patient handling is the number one cause of injury among health care workers. People working in healthcare are at a significant risk of sprains and strain injuries. Physically dependent patients, clients and residents need to be monitored, care for and assessed on a regular basis. Asks including bathing, repositioning and transfer can result in an injury. To reduce the risk, appropriate mechanical equipment should be provided. Workers must also be trained on safe work procedures and the proper use of equipment.

What are the risks?

The main risks with patient handling are the frequency, force and postures associated with tasks. Awkward postures during repositioning and the high frequency of transfers are common in healthcare.

The design and layout of the workplace environment can be a contributing factor to sprains and strains too. A cluttered patient or resident room or client’s home can lead to awkward postures and related injuries.

The lack of availability and/or proper use of appropriate patient handling equipment is another risk factor leading to health care worker injuries.

Patient characteristics and behaviours can contribute to health care worker injuries. For example, a sudden change in patient’s mobility, where they cannot support their own weight during a transfer, can pose a risk to caregivers.

How to reduce the risk?

Employers must ensure steps are taken to reduce workers’ risk of injury as much as possible when transferring people.

Before any transfer or reposition of a patient, resident or client, a point of care risk assessment must be conducted.

Employers must ensure workers have the resources they need to perform the task safely, including sufficient personnel and appropriate equipment.

Learn more about Point-of-Care Risk Assessments in Long Term Care.