Course 623 - Preventing Ergonomic Injuries in Healthcare

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Patient Handling Controls



Hospital health care workers (especially nursing assistants, who do a majority of the lifting in many facilities) may develop musculoskeletal injuries such as muscle and ligament strain and tears, joint and tendon inflammation, pinched nerves, herniated discs and others from patient handling.

Good work practice includes continually identifying the most hazardous tasks and implementing engineering and work practice controls to help reduce or prevent injuries in those tasks.

Employers must provide employees with proper assist devices and equipment to reduce excessive lifting hazards.

The proper equipment selection depends on the specific needs of the facility, patients, staff, and management.

Bathing Assistance

Devices such as shower chairs can fit over the toilet. Using this device can eliminate multiple transfers, which prevents health care workers from having to lift patients several times. A patient can be moved to the shower chair, toileted, showered, and transferred back to the wheelchair. Shower stalls allow for shower chairs to be pushed in and out on level floor surfaces.

adjustable tub
Adjustable Bathtubs: These are used to bath patients who sit directly in the bathtub. They are also used to assist ambulatory patients.
Shower Gurney
Shower Gurney: Use for bathing non-weight bearing patients. The cart can be raised to eliminate bending and reaching to the caregiver.
shower chair
Shower chairs can eliminate multiple transfers, saving health care workers multiple lifts.
toilet seat riser

Toileting Assistance

Toilet seat risers are used on toilets to equalize the height of wheelchair and toilet seat, making it a lateral transfer rather than a lift up and back into wheelchair.

Mechanical Lift Equipment

There are several types of equipment to help lift patients who cannot support their own weight. You should choose a lift that does not require manual pumping to avoid a possible repetitive motion disorders to workers’ arms or shoulders.

In the next few tabs, we will take a look at some popular lift equipment types.

Mechanical Lift Equipment

Overhead track mounted patient lifters: A tract system built into the ceiling that sling lifts attach to. This system provides patient mobility from room to room without manual lifting.

Lateral transfer devices: Devices used to laterally transfer a patient (for example from bed to gurney). They usually involve multiple staff members to help do the lifting. This is often done with the help of a draw sheet, or similar device. Some new lateral transfer systems do not require any lifting by staff, and are totally mechanical. This type of device helps prevent staff back injuries.

shower chair
Lateral transfer devices
shower chair
Overhead track mounted patient lifters

Mechanical Lift Equipment

sliding boards

Sliding boards: A slick board used under patients to help reduce the need for lifting during transfer of patient from bed to chair, or chair to car. Patients are slid rather than lifted.

  • Some newer versions of sliding boards have devices that allow the resident to slide easily along the board without tissue damage and with no lifting involved.
  • The friction of the movement is borne by the sliding board, not the patient’s skin. These devices are very useful for difficult transfers like car to wheelchair.
  • This type of sliding board protects against back injuries, brachial plexus injuries and conditions which can cause pressure sores.

Mechanical Lift Equipment

Slip sheets/Roller sheets: Helps to reduce friction while laterally transferring or repositioning patients in bed. They also help reduce the force workers need to exert to move the patient.

roller sheets
Roller sheets
slip sheets
Slip sheets

Mechanical Lift Equipment

Repositioning Devices: Mechanically pulls patient up in bed, which eliminates manual maneuvering by staff.

Height adjustable electric beds: These should have height controls to allow for easy transfers from bed height to wheelchair height. These beds can be kept low to the ground for patient safety and then raised up for interaction with staff. Avoid hand cranked beds, which can lead to wrist/shoulder musculoskeletal disorders such as strain or repetitive motion injuries.

slip sheets
Height adjustable electric beds
roller sheets
Repositioning devices

Mechanical Lift Equipment

Trapeze lifts: A bar device suspended above the bed which allows patients with upper muscle strength to help reposition themselves. This device is particularly useful with adjustable beds and armless wheelchairs.

Walking belts or gait belts (with handles): Provide stabilization for ambulatory patients by allowing workers to hold onto the belt and support patients when walking. Not designed for lifting patients.

roller sheets
Walking or gait belts
slip sheets
Trapeze lifts

Mechanical Lift Equipment

Sitting-standing wheelchairs: Wheelchairs that provide sitting to standing options for patients and health care workers.

Pivot transfer disk devices: Used for standing pivot transfers and seated pivot transfers for patients who have weight bearing capacity and are cooperative.

pivot transfer
Pivot transfer disk devices
Sitting-standing wheelchairs


Healthcare workers who lift and reposition patients have the highest injury rate among the CSEA workforce. This video shows how labor and management can work together to implement a safe patient handling (SPH) program.

A SPH program can help reduce employee injuries, reduce mandatory overtime, increase morale, and lower workers' compensation costs. The video will show you how to implement a SPH program at your facility. This video is a real life example of the successful program at the NYS Veterans' Home at Batavia.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Employers must provide employees with proper assist devices and equipment to reduce excessive lifting hazards.

2. This type of lift is suspended above the bed and allows patients to help repositioning themselves.

3. Which device is not designed for lifting patients?

4. This device provides patient mobility from room to room without manual lifting.

5. Why should you avoid hand-cranked adjustable beds?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.