Worker Safety in Hospitals
Caring for our Caregivers
Safe Patient Handling Equipment
Having a successful safe patient handling program means more than owning equipment: it means having the right amount of equipment that is right for the job and easily accessible to workers when they need it. Here are some ways to get the right equipment for your hospital:
Profile: Tampa General Hospital Takes a Load off Caregivers' Backs
Before Tampa General initiated its safe patient handling program, the hospital only had one operable floor lift available. To allow caregivers to focus on their other patient responsibilities when it added lifts in every department, Tampa General hired and trained lift teams—two-person teams who specialize in using equipment to lift and transfer patients. Some lift teams are scheduled for specific units, working their way through the unit repositioning patients; others are available on demand, carrying wireless tablet computers to receive and prioritize lift requests throughout the hospital.
The lift team members are responsible for the evaluation, maintenance, cleaning, and inventory of all patient lifting and transfer equipment.
- Involve your front-line staff in testing and selecting equipment. The people who actually move patients are a valuable resource when determining the equipment most appropriate to each unit.
- Choose equipment based on the specific lifting, transfer, and movement needs of each unit and patient population.
- Make sure the equipment is conveniently located, readily available, and accessible so that staff can use it without keeping patients waiting or delaying other tasks.
- Put systems in place to ensure that mechanical equipment is maintained and supplies such as slings and transfer sheets are kept clean and stocked. Staff cannot use mechanical equipment if it is broken or not charged. Further, equipment that has not been maintained properly could result in injuries to both caregivers and patients.
- Consider partnering with an equipment vendor. Vendors can help you develop your safe handling program, host equipment fairs, troubleshoot issues, answer questions, and maintain and replace equipment.
- Design with safe patient handling in mind during construction and remodeling. It is easier and more cost-effective than retrofitting. In Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards, the American Nurses Association recommends that hospitals incorporate ergonomic design principles to provide a safe environment of care.
The following resources will help you identify the right equipment for your hospital:
- OSHA developed a Hospital e-Tool (a stand-alone, interactive information resource) to describe some of the hazards and controls found in the hospital setting.
- In 2011 (in a previous Alliance with OSHA), the Association of Occupational Health Professionals published Beyond Getting Started: A Resource Guide for Implementing a Safe Patient Handling Program in the Acute Care Setting. This resource provides guidance about the selection of equipment, potential types of equipment by hospital department, and a product evaluation tool.
- In 2001, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs published Patient Care Ergonomics Resource Guide: Safe Patient Handling and Movement, Part 1 and Part 2. This resource provides product feature rating surveys and product ranking surveys to help facilities determine the best equipment for them based on caregiver and patient feedback.
- In 2003, OSHA published Guidelines for Nursing Homes, Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders to provide information on available options for mechanical equipment and lifting devices that a facility can consider using to meet the needs of each individual patient. Although these guidelines are designed specifically for nursing homes, OSHA hopes that hospitals will also find this information useful.