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Course 773 - Preventing MSDs in Healthcare

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

A Process for Protecting Workers

manual lift
OSHA recommends that manual lifting of patients be minimized in all cases and eliminated when feasible.


The number and severity of injuries resulting from physical demands in healthcare — and associated costs — can be substantially reduced. Providing an alternative to manual patient lifting is the primary goal of the ergonomics process in the healthcare setting.

OSHA recommends that manual lifting of patients be minimized in all cases and eliminated when feasible. OSHA further recommends employers develop a process for systematically addressing ergonomics issues in their facilities, and incorporate this process into an overall program to recognize and prevent occupational safety and health hazards.

An effective process should be tailored to the characteristics of the particular facility, but OSHA generally recommends several steps.

Provide Management Support

OSHA recommends strong management support to create the best opportunity for success. OSHA recommends employers do the following:

  • Develop clear goals.
  • Assign responsibilities to designated staff members to achieve those goals.
  • Provide necessary resources.
  • Ensure assigned responsibilities are fulfilled.

Providing a safe and healthful workplace requires a sustained effort, allocation of resources, and frequent follow-up that can only be achieved through the active support of management.

Involve Employees

Employees are a vital source of information about hazards in their workplace.

Employees are a vital source of information about specific hazards in their workplace. Their involvement adds problem-solving capabilities and hazard identification assistance, enhances worker motivation and job satisfaction, and leads to greater acceptance when changes are made in the workplace. Employees can:

  • Submit suggestions or concerns.
  • Discuss the workplace and work methods.
  • Participate in the design of work, equipment, procedures, and training.
  • Evaluate equipment.
  • Respond to employee surveys.
  • Participate in task groups with responsibility for ergonomics.
  • Participate in developing the facilities’ ergonomics process.

Implement Solutions

When problems related to ergonomics are identified, suitable options can then be selected and implemented to eliminate hazards. Effective solutions usually involve workplace modifications that eliminate hazards and improve the work environment.

These changes usually include the use of equipment, work practices, or both. When choosing methods for lifting and repositioning patients, individual factors should be taken into account. Such factors include:

  • patient’s rehabilitation plan
  • need to restore the patient’s functional abilities
  • medical contraindications
  • emergency situations
  • patient dignity and rights
patient rights
Early diagnosis and intervention of injury are important to limit the severity of injury.

Address Reports of Injuries

Even in establishments with effective safety and health programs, injuries and illnesses may occur. Work-related MSDs should be managed in the same manner and under the same process as any other occupational injury or illness. Like many injuries and illnesses, employers and employees can benefit from early reporting of MSDs.

Early diagnosis and intervention, including alternative duty programs, are particularly important in order to limit the severity of injury, improve the effectiveness of treatment, minimize the likelihood of disability or permanent damage, and reduce the amount of associated workers’ compensation claims and costs.

OSHA’s injury and illness recording and reporting regulation (29 CFR 1904) requires employers to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. These reports can help the healthcare facility identify problem areas and evaluate ergonomic efforts.

patient rights
Training is necessary to ensure employees and managers can recognize potential ergonomics issues.

Provide Training

Training is necessary to ensure employees and managers can recognize potential ergonomics issues in the workplace, and understand available measures to minimize the risk of injury.

Ergonomics training can be integrated into general training on performance requirements and job practices. Effective training covers the problems found in each employee’s job.

Evaluate Ergonomics Efforts

Healthcare facilities should evaluate the effectiveness of their ergonomics efforts and follow-up on unresolved problems. Evaluation helps sustain the effort to:

  • reduce injuries and illnesses
  • track whether or not ergonomic solutions are working
  • identify new problems
  • show areas where further improvement is needed

Evaluation and follow-up are central to continuous improvement and long-term success. Once solutions are introduced, OSHA recommends employers make sure they are effective. Various indicators, such as OSHA 300 and 301 information data and workers’ compensation reports, can provide useful data at this stage, as can other techniques, such as employee interviews.

For example, after introducing a new lift at the facility, the employer should follow-up by talking with employees to ensure the problem has been adequately addressed. In addition, interviews provide a mechanism for ensuring that the solution is not only in place, but is being used properly. The same methods used to identify problems in many cases can also be used for evaluation.



Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Providing a safe workplace requires which of the following?

2. _____ is/are a vital source of information about workplace hazards.

3. When choosing methods for lifting patients, which of the following factor(s) should be taken into account?

4. _____ and _____ are important to continuous improvement and long-term success in an ergonomics program.

5. The same methods used to identify ergonomic problems in many cases can also be used for evaluation.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.