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NIOSH research initiatives to prevent back injuries to nursing assistants, aides, and orderlies in nursing homes.

Collins JW; Owen BD
Am J Ind Med 1996 Apr; 29(4):421-424
NIOSH research programs to prevent back injuries to health care personnel in nursing homes was discussed. The epidemiological aspects of the back injury problem in nursing homes were considered. Data obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has shown that the rate of musculoskeletal problems among nursing home personnel increased from 10.7 to 18.6 injuries per 100 fulltime workers between 1980 and 1992. In 1994, BLS data indicated that the reported injury and illness rates for the nursing home industry were higher than in the construction industry, an industry with widely recognized hazards. The increased rates of injury and illness among nursing home employees was attributed, at least in part, to having to lift patients. The high rate of injury and millions of dollars that have been spent on nursing home associated injuries have prompted NIOSH to investigate strategies to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries among nursing home workers. NIOSH has funded a survey in which nursing assistants ranked various resident handling tasks according to their perceived stress on the low back, two laboratory evaluations of resident transferring methods and assistive devices, and an ergonomically based field study to evaluate the effectiveness of mechanical hoists for handling totally dependent residents, walking belts for transferring partially dependent residents, and an educational program to train nursing assistants in these methods. The field study which was based on the results of the survey and laboratory evaluations found that all of the assistive devices helped reduce the mean compressive forces on the assistant's lumbar spine and mean forces on the nursing assistant's hands. Prior to the intervention, the proportion of nursing assistants that could safely transfer a resident was 41%. After the intervention, this increased to 83%. The authors conclude that these results indicate that an ergonomically based intervention using well designed assistive devices and sound resident transferring methods can significantly reduce the physical stress and risk of low back injury to nursing personnel.
NIOSH-Author; Occupational-health-programs; Back-injuries; Injury-prevention; Health-care-personnel; Epidemiology; Ergonomics; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Health-care-facilities; Manual-lifting; Author Keywords: disease prevention; back injuries; nursing homes; intervention research
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American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Page last reviewed: October 9, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division