This case study was developed from information provided by Wyandot County Nursing Home in Ohio.
OSHA visited the 100-bed nursing home to discuss the ergonomics program with the nursing home administrator, observe ergonomics corrective actions, and talk to employees, residents, and family members about their experiences. Let’s take a closer look at their findings.
Before Wyandot implemented its ergonomics program, the home was experiencing problems that were a growing concern to both the county and the nursing home administrator. According to Wyandot, workers’ compensation costs averaged almost $140,000 per year from 1995-1997. The turnover rate among nursing assistants averaged more than 55 percent during that same time period.
Wyandot’s administrator started looking for more effective ways to address injuries among workers and deal with the high turnover rate. Ironically, a back injury that cost the home $240,000 in workers’ compensation expenses provided significant motivation to find a strategy that would work. While administrators investigated the injury, they also looked at other sources of potential injury within the site.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (OBWC) ergonomist visited the home and told administrators they had unrealistic expectations about the nursing staff’s ability to manually lift and reposition residents.
After this site visit, management involved employees at every level to try and reduce injuries and slow down the turnover rate. More than 30 workers volunteered to look at tasks of moving and repositioning residents. They concluded that better body mechanics, which involved the traditional method of lifting and transferring residents at most nursing home, was not the answer. In fact, everyone determined there was no safe way to lift a resident other than with mechanical lifts.
Wyandot’s administrator bought several portable mechanical lifts for the facility. These involved portable sit-to-stand lifts, walk/ambulating lifts, and total lifts. Nurses and assistants could move each of these from room to room as they worked with individual residents. However, many of the staff remained unconvinced of the value of using equipment. In fact, initially only the workers who had actually evaluated the lifts were using them.
About three years after Wyandot began its ergonomic effort, the nursing home received a grant from the OBWC Division of Safety and Hygiene through an ergonomic emphasis program to deal with trauma disorders. With the grant, Wyandot purchased 58 fast electric beds.
The final phase of Wyandot’s program began with the introduction of ceiling lifts.
At the beginning of the process, Wyandot’s administrator spent $150,000 to buy equipment. He set aside another $130,000 to continue his efforts, for a total of $280,000. The nursing home saved $55,000 annually in payroll costs because of reduced overtime and absenteeism. The home estimates saving more than $125,000 in turnover costs. Also, workers’ compensation costs have fallen dramatically, from an average of $140,000 to less than $4,000 per year.
From the time workers began to use the sit-to-stand lifts, which were among the first to be introduced at Wyandot, the incidence of back injuries stopped. Once the fast beds were introduced only six new hires were needed in the following year.
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