Importance of Safe Patient Handling Education

One major source of injury to healthcare workers is musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), over 50 percent of injuries and illnesses reported in 2013 among nursing assistants were MSDs. The key to protecting workers is teaching safe patient handling before students graduate.

Learning the proper techniques of safe patient handling while in a nursing program benefits the student for his/her long-term career and reduces unnecessary injuries and time away from work. On average, U.S. hospitals recorded 6.4 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees, which is nearly twice the number for all U.S. industries combined (3.3 per 100).

How to prepare for safe patient handling activities

  • Assess the patient to select proper equipment. Instruct students to check medical charts and communicate with patients. Assess for body weight and mobility to pick the right equipment to move the patient.
  • Use positioning and mobility techniques that are safe for the patient and caregiver. Go beyond “proper body mechanics,” and employ lifting equipment.
  • Know how equipment works. Lifts, rollers, slip sheets, and slings each are deployed differently. Make sure students are educated about how all the equipment works, and which type of equipment is best used in each patient handling situation.
  • Gather the appropriate equipment and other staff members if needed.
  • Organize the room. Lock the wheels of the bed or chair, put the bed or stretcher at the correct height, remove clutter, and make sure mobile equipment is charged.
  • Teach students how to communicate with patients. Patients need to know what is expected from them. Students can practice showing them what to do and help them move through the activity.

OSHA has created a comprehensive program for safe patient handling, including information about safe patient handling equipment. Until about 2010, educators were still teaching techniques such as the two-person lift and hook-and-toss methods as primary approaches to lifting and moving patients. These techniques rely on body mechanics. OSHA is now assessing hospitals for lifting equipment to prevent widespread MSDs in staff.

To learn more about safe patient handling products please visit, and see our lifting equipment.

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