Thursday, July 20, 2017

Injuries among nursing home workers significantly decreased after the start of a safety program that included mechanical lifting equipment

Lifting Equipment Linked to Fewer Injuries among Nursing Home Workers

Injuries among nursing home workers significantly decreased after the start of a safety program that included mechanical lifting equipment and training on how to use it, according to a NIOSH-funded study at the University of Massachusetts Lowell published in the journal Safety Science.
Compared to workers in other occupations, nursing home workers have a higher rate of work-related injury to the muscles and bones. In fact, musculoskeletal injury results in more days of work missed among nursing home workers than among construction workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Often, these injuries result from tasks that involve manually lifting or moving nursing home residents. Consequently, occupational safety and health specialists are interested in whether mechanical lifting equipment can help reduce injury and protect workers.
For this 8-year study, investigators compared injury rates from before a safety program began to after the program had been in place for 6 years. Started by a large healthcare corporation to reduce musculoskeletal injuries, the program included purchasing mechanical lifting equipment and training workers to use it. The program also provided the nursing homes with detailed procedures for using and maintaining the equipment.
Using workers’ compensation claims, the investigators compared injury rates for 136 nursing homes in 11 states employing 18,571 full-time employees annually, on average. Claims related to resident handling decreased by 32% within the first 3 years of the study and by 38% within 4 to 6 years. Overall, injury claims decreased in 72% of participating centers after 6 years, and resident-handling claims decreased by 82%. Based on these findings, the investigators concluded that mechanical lifting equipment helped reduce injuries among the nursing home workers in this study. Since injuries still occurred, however, more research is necessary to understand the causes and prevention of musculoskeletal injury among nursing home workers.
More information is available:

Injury rates before and after the implementation of a safe resident handling program in the long-term care sector


  • WC claim rates were evaluated pre- and six years post-SRHP in 136 nursing homes.
  • There were reductions in injury rates in at least 70% of centers post-SRHP.
  • Claims related to resident handling were reduced by about one-third.
  • Benefits were most pronounced for lifting residents in/out of bed, chair or toilet.
  • SRHP transfer from a 3rd party to the employer did not impact reduced WC claims.


Manual resident handling (RH) tasks increase risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) for clinical staff in nursing homes. To reduce the incidence and cost of MSDs, a large healthcare corporation instituted a Safe Resident Handling Program (SRHP) comprising purchase of mechanical lifting equipment, worker training, and detailed usage/maintenance protocols. The program was initially administered by a third-party company; after three years, program responsibility shifted to individual centers.

Workers’ compensation claim rates were compared before and after SRHP implementation. Claims and FTEs were classified as “pre-SRHP,” “first post period” (up to 3 years post-SRHP), or “second post period” (4–6 years post-SRHP), based on claim date relative to implementation date for each center.
Complete data were available for 136 nursing homes with average annual employment of 18,571 full-time equivalents. Over the 8-year period, 22,445 claims were recorded. At each time period, the majority of RH claims affected the back (36% low, 15% other) and upper extremity (26%).

 Workers’ compensation claims were reduced by 11% during the first post period and 14% during the second post period. RH-related claims were reduced by 32% and 38%, respectively. After six years, the rate for all claims had decreased in 72% of centers, and RH claim rates decreased in 82%. Relative risk for post-/pre-SRHP injury rates increased for centers with less developed wellness programs, unionized centers, and centers with higher LPN turnover pre-SRHP. Injury reduction among these nursing home workers is plausibly attributable to the introduction of mechanical lifting equipment within the context of this multi-faceted SRHP.


Intervention studies
Safe resident handling program
Healthcare ergonomics
Musculoskeletal disorders
Workers’ compensation claims