RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
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Musculoskeletal injuries resulting from patient handling tasks among hospital workers.

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to evaluate musculoskeletal injuries and disorders resulting from patient handling prior to the implementation of a "minimal manual lift" policy at a large tertiary care medical center. We sought to define the circumstances surrounding patient handling injuries and to identify potential preventive measures.

METHODS: Human resources data were used to define the cohort and their time at work. Workers' compensation records (1997-2003) were utilized to identify work-related musculoskeletal claims, while the workers' description of injury was used to identify those that resulted from patient handling. Adjusted rate ratios were generated using Poisson regression.

RESULTS: One-third (n = 876) of all musculoskeletal injuries resulted from patient handling activities. Most (83%) of the injury burden was incurred by inpatient nurses, nurses' aides and radiology technicians, while injury rates were highest for nurses' aides (8.8/100 full-time equivalent, FTEs) and smaller workgroups including emergency medical technicians (10.3/100 FTEs), patient transporters (4.3/100 FTEs), operating room technicians (3.1/100 FTEs), and morgue technicians (2.2/100 FTEs). Forty percent of injuries due to lifting/transferring patients may have been prevented through the use of mechanical lift equipment, while 32% of injuries resulting from repositioning/turning patients, pulling patients up in bed, or catching falling patients may not have been prevented by the use of lift equipment.

CONCLUSIONS: The use of mechanical lift equipment could significantly reduce the risk of some patient handling injuries but additional interventions need to be considered that address other patient handling tasks. Smaller high-risk workgroups should not be neglected in prevention efforts.

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