Handling patients is a significant hazard to workers in the health care sector. Whether lifting, transferring or repositioning, patient handling exposes workers to considerable ergonomic stresses caused by a combination of the patient’s characteristics, the workplace components and the task. Workplaces can address these risk factors with a prevention program that applies the appropriate handling equipment and procedures to the work.
To aid in this endeavour, the Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) has developed a new three-hour Patient Handling
Scope of the problem
This module is included in the health care sector stream for Certification Part II
training. If it is delivered in a stream of modules, the introduction to participants and the health and safety program can be omitted. The next section includes an short, active lecture on the scope of the problem, plus key terms related to patient handling. Also in this section, the instructor makes use of a brainstorm activity to solicit participants’ ideas about how to address patient handling scenarios. The instructor records responses on a flipchart and posts them for later use.
The module next allows for a brief review of the related risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Instructors can omit this review if they are delivering the module as part of a stream and a previous module includes the core element on MSDs and risk factors.
Through a mixture of active lectures and brainstorm sessions, participants will learn about legislation relevant to patient handling and how they can apply these general requirements to patient lifting tasks. This section emphasises the requirements of the Regulations for Health Care and Residential Facilities
After a break, participants discuss how to assess “contributing factors” of patient handling hazards that cause MSDs. The module groups these factors into one of three categories – the task, the workplace components or the characteristics of the patient. Participants will review these categories in detail and brainstorm their application to everyday work situations. Resource Sheets 2 to 4 provide generic tools for assessing the workplace components and the patient.
A brief review of the principles of control follows. Instructors may omit this review, if the module is part of a stream and a previous module has already covered the content.
Key program elements
The final and largest section of the module focuses on key elements the joint health and safety committee should ensure are in effect in order to support a strong patient handling program. The instructor uses an active lecture to discuss patient handling policies. (Resource Sheet 5 provides a sample policy). The lecture also examines various assessment and selection tools a workplace can implement to assist workers in determining the scale of the hazard and the correct procedure and/or equipment that will help reduce or eliminate injuries to workers. The instructor prompts a brainstorm session about the characteristics of a good patient handling procedure. This discussion is supported by a number of other Resource Sheets addressing various aspects of patient handling procedures. Next, the instructor gives an active lecture on equipment maintenance requirements and initiates a brainstorm of procedures that will support good maintenance practice. The group also examines worker training requirements.
The module concludes with:
an active lecture on how to evaluate the strength of the program;
a discussion on whether the participants would manage the previously posted patient handling scenarios differently; and
a game to review key module points.