Hospitals provide many opportunities for ergonomic stressors to manifest into injuries or repetitive stress disorders. Major ergonomic issues in the hospital settings include patient handling and awkward postures. Use this page to learn a bit more about how to mitigate these stressors.
Hospital employees are exposed to injuries such as muscle and ligament strain and tears, joint and tendon inflammation, pinched nerves, herniated discs and other injuries from ergonomic stressors during handling, transferring, and repositioning of patients.
OSHA recommends minimizing the manual lifting of patients in all cases and eliminating lifting when possible. This can be difficult to accomplish, so it is recommended that employees make use of proper assist devices and equipment whenever possible. Devices such as mechanical lift equipment, shower chairs, lateral transfer devices, sliding boards, gait belts with handles, wheelchairs, repositioning devices, etc., are examples of engineering controls that should be utilized whenever possible. Administrative controls, such as proper lifting training and development of written patient care plans should be created and implemented to make the best use of employees’ time and abilities. Sufficient staff should be on hand to make tasks requiring multiple people (such as some patient repositioning and transfers) feasible.
Many common tasks for the hospital worker can create awkward postures, which include twisted, hyper-extended or flexed back positions, reaching, or lateral or side bending. Awkward postures can increase forces on the spine and in joints and can contribute to muscle and tendon fatigue and/or joint soreness. More muscular force is required when awkward postures are used because muscles cannot perform efficiently.
Good work practice recommends avoiding awkward postures while working. Try to perform your work while minimizing twisted or bent postures. Engineering controls can be used to reduce some awkward postures. Making use of equipment such as patient lifts, transfer devices, adjustable IV stands, etc., can reduce or eliminate some awkward postures when used correctly. Ensure that good housekeeping is maintained to clear space in patient rooms and hallways to provide room for more neutral postures while working. All employees should be appropriately trained in order to properly use equipment and ergonomic knowledge. The computer workstation can create many awkward postures and repetitive tasks. Visit the Office Ergonomics page to learn more about setting up a computer workstation.
Additional Information and Resources
Use the following resources to learn more about ergonomics in the hospital work environment.