Ergonomics: Identify Problems and Provide Solutions in Nursing Homes

Ergonomics: Guidelines for Nursing Homes

Section IV. Identifying Problems and Implementing Solutions for Activities Other than Resident Lifting and Repositioning

Some reports indicate a significant number of work-related MSDs in nursing homes occur in activities other than resident lifting. (2, 3) Examples of some of the activities that the nursing home operator may want to review are:

•bending to make a bed or feed a resident;
•lifting food trays above shoulder level or below knee level;
•collecting waste;
•pushing heavy carts;
•bending to remove items from a deep cart;
•lifting and carrying when receiving and stocking supplies;
•bending and manually cranking an adjustable bed; and
•removing laundry from washing machines and dryers.

These tasks may not present problems in all circumstances. Employers should consider the duration, frequency, and magnitude of employee exposure to forceful exertions, repetitive activities and awkward postures when determining if problems exist in these and other areas. In the vast majority of cases, job assessments can be accomplished by observing employees performing the task, by discussing with employees the activities and conditions that they associate with difficulties, and checking injury records. Observation provides general information about the workstation layout, tools, equipment, and general environmental conditions in the workplace. Discussing tasks with employees helps to ensure that a complete picture of the process is obtained. Employees who perform a given task are also often the best sources for identifying the cause of a problem, and developing the most practical and effective solutions. Once information is obtained and problems identified, suitable improvements can be implemented. Finally, there are a number of resources available to help determine if specific activities have the potential for causing injuries. For example, support is available from OSHA's consultation program, insurance companies, and state workers' compensation programs.

The following are examples of possible solutions for activities other than resident lifting and repositioning.


(2) Garg, A. 1999. Long-Term Effectiveness of "Zero-Lift Program" in Seven Nursing Homes and One Hospital. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institution for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Cincinnati, OH. August. Contract No. U60/CCU512089-02. (Ex. 3-3)

(3) Fragala, G., PhD, PE, CSP. 1996. Ergonomics: How to Contain On-the-Job Injuries in Health Care. Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
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Washington, DC 20210

Updated on: 09/07/12
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