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Success with Ergonomics
Heritage Enterprises, Inc.

State: Illinois
   
Company: Heritage Enterprises, Inc.
  Bloomington, Illinois
   
Industry: Intermediate Care Facilities - SIC Code 8052
   
Employees: 2,400

 
Success Brief: Looking to reduce the number and severity of work-related injuries, the company decided to modify working conditions to improve ergonomics at its facilities.



The Problem

Injuries to patient caregivers and other employees from resident handling were leading to instances of back, shoulder and knee injuries.

The Solution

The company's workers' compensation carrier provided a risk management consultant who developed a "no lift" program for the company's nursing homes. Although purchasing the equipment necessary to implement the "no lift" program was costly, the company decided that the projected results made the initial start up costs well worth the expenditure. The company initially hoped that the program would improve employee morale and lead to fewer injuries and a decrease in workers' compensation costs.

Under the "no lift" policy, employees no longer lift the residents, and manual transfers may only be performed if the resident is ambulatory and the transfer requires no lifting. Instead, the residents are lifted by a machine. Each resident is evaluated by the facility, and the type of care required by the resident (e.g., sit to stand lift or full lift) is recorded on a picture board in the resident's room.

When new equipment is obtained, the staff of the entire facility is educated on its proper use. Compliance with the "no lift" policy is mandatory. Each facility also has at least two "product champions"--these employees serve as the model employees in using the policy, and they become the employees in charge of orienting new employees to the machines and re-educating existing employees as necessary to ensure proper compliance with the policy and training for all other employees. Maintenance employees are charged with ensuring that the batteries of the lifts are always charged and available, and specific laundry employees are responsible for ensuring that the slings are inspected for fraying, seam problems or tears.

The Impact

As a result of the "no lift" program, the Certified Nurse's Aides (CNAs) report feeling better at the end of the day and not feeling so fatigued. They also report improved morale because they now have more personal time after work because they are not as tired as they were from lifting patients. In addition, they report feeling less stressed at the end of the day. CNAs are able to spend more time with the residents because by using the mechanical lifts they spend less time lifting, bathing and dressing the residents. The lifts are also enabling the residents to lead fuller lives. Further, the company has experienced one of its initial goals--work-related injuries and the associated expenses have decreased as a result of the new "no lift" policy.


Source: Paula Williamson, Benefits Manager, Heritage Enterprises, Inc. (July 2002).