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New Solut. 2008;18(2):207-19. doi: 10.2190/NS.18.2.j.

"Doing the heavy lifting: health care workers take back their backs".

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ErgoCenter & Occupational and Environmental Health Center, UCONN Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030-6210, USA.


Health care workers have the highest musculoskeletal disorder prevalence and incidence of any occupational/industry group, and patient handling tasks are so biomechanically demanding that they cannot be made safe through the commonly used, technique-oriented methods such as "back school" training programs. Although there is standard-setting activity for "no-lift" programs in some states, there is still no federal standard. Health care worker unions and nurses' associations have begun to take action through training members in equipment need, use, and acceptance in programs to encourage adoption of no-lifting programs. Acceptance of lifting equipment is increasing due to recognition of the high human and economic costs of MSD, consistent documentation of cost savings from no-lift programs, major improvements in lifting equipment, and shortages of health care staff. An action-oriented training program for health care workers is described that provides knowledge about the 1) Scope of the current problem of back injuries in health care, 2) Costs of injuries, both to workers and to the hospital, 3) Elements of a safe patient-handling program, and 4) Success stories. The program also builds skills through: 1) Hands-on experience with safe lifting equipment, and 2) Assessing organizational and union readiness and planning for action at the workplace.

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