Employees who work in the sterile supply area frequently extend arms when sorting sterilized packages, lift above shoulder height to reach high shelves of equipment and objects, or push and pull heavy carts full of dirty or clean items. In addition, continuously standing in one position and resting wrists on hard or sharp counter surfaces while sorting instruments may result in work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) (e.g., strain and sprain injuries to back and shoulders or contact trauma to forearms).
Recognized Controls and Work Practices
- If possible, redesign workstations so packaging and equipment can be reached while maintaining the elbows in close to the body.
- Use rolling carts (or powered carts) with large, low-resistance wheels that can easily roll over mixed flooring as well as gaps between elevators and hallways.
- Minimize prolonged overhead activity (e.g., lower stacking shelves to shoulder height).
- Use height-adjustable work surfaces or lift tables to minimize head tilt.
- Rotate workers through tasks that use different parts of the body and different types of tasks or motions so as to lessen exposure to repetitive tasks that affect the same musculoskeletal group(s).
- Pad the edge of work surfaces that come into contact with the elbow or forearm, which could cause contact trauma.
- Provide sit/stand stools at workstations.
- Use anti-fatigue mats.
- Use shoes with well-cushioned insteps and soles where floor mats cannot be used.
- Provide a foot rest bar so that employees can continually alter their posture by raising one foot.
- Ergonomics. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page.
- Inspection Guidance for Inpatient Healthcare Settings. (June 25, 2015). OSHA memorandum establishing guidance for inspections conducted in inpatient healthcare settings.
- Hospital-wide Hazards – Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders.