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Strains and sprains: Avoiding the risks of patient handling

November 3, 2015

Hospitals are often considered one of the most hazardous work environments for employees, posing multiple workers’ compensation threats to those just trying to do their jobs. According to OSHA in 2013, 34 percent of recorded hospital worker injuries requiring days away from work were associated with patient interactions, including injuries caused by handling the patients.

Head of Healthcare and Financial Institutions

Chris Taylor is the Head of Healthcare and Financial Institutions in Commercial Insurance for Zurich... About this expert

Patient handling

Zurich’s recent Benchmark Study of Hospital Workers’ Compensation Claims found that three in eight workers’ compensation claims were caused by various strain accidents. Not surprisingly, many of these accidents were caused during patient handling. Providing healthcare management with the information they need to keep working conditions safe is a top priority for mitigating workers’ compensation risks when it comes to handling patients.


Mitigating risks through safe handling and mobility

Protecting employees while on the job needs to be a top priority. There are many things that management can do to help alleviate these risks, including:

  • Establish a stretch and flex program
  • Rotate staff regularly, including breaks and job placement
  • Promote proper safe lifting of patients and consistent use of mobility equipment through extensive and ongoing training
  • Retraining injured employees as they return to work from workers’ compensation or other disability


Implementing a program

One of the first steps in creating a program for safe handling and mobility is making sure management is on board. They have to lead the initiative to keep their staff safe by providing them with the tools they need. Consideration should also be given for providing sufficient staff support and funding for purchasing any necessary technology or training materials.

Proper equipment

Training staff on how to use equipment appropriately is a major factor when mitigating the risk of strains in healthcare facilities. Lifting and repositioning equipment can be used to transfer patients effectively. When purchasing a portable or ceiling/wall mounted lift, the staff needs to be trained on how to use the equipment without causing themselves unneeded strain. Investing in the right equipment and training is justified when compared to a healthcare organization’s cost for employee injury. By establishing the correct way to handle patients, you can help avoid costly workers’ compensation claims to staff members.

Management reinforcement

Safe patient handling programs not only need to be implemented, they have to be enforced. Management should take responsibility for making sure all staff members are up to date on current programs and equipment. Regular training and refresher courses can also be helpful in keeping employees current.


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The information in this publication was compiled from sources believed to be reliable for informational purposes only. All sample policies and procedures herein should serve as a guideline, which you can use to create your own policies and procedures. We trust that you will customize these samples to reflect your own operations and believe that these samples may serve as a helpful platform for this endeavor. Any and all information contained herein is not intended to constitute advice (particularly not legal advice). Accordingly, persons requiring advice should consult independent advisers when developing programs and policies. We do not guarantee the accuracy of this information or any results and further assume no liability in connection with this publication and sample policies and procedures, including any information, methods or safety suggestions contained herein. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any of this information, whether to reflect new information, future developments, events or circumstances or otherwise. Moreover, Zurich reminds you that this cannot be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedure or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances. The subject matter of this publication is not tied to any specific insurance product nor will adopting these policies and procedures ensure coverage under any insurance policy.

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