Course 623 - Preventing Ergonomic Injuries in Healthcare

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

Other Ergonomic Hazards


Some reports indicate a significant number of work-related MSDs in the healthcare facilities occur in activities other than patient lifting.

Awkward Postures

Awkward postures occur with twisted, hyper-extended or flexed back positions. They are unsafe back postures for patient lifting.

Potential Hazard

Increased potential for employee injury exists when awkward postures are used when handling or lifting patients. Awkward postures include:

  • forces on the spine increase when lifting, lowering or handling objects with the back bent or twisted
  • more muscular force is required when awkward postures are used because muscles cannot perform efficiently
  • fixed awkward postures (i.e., holding the arm out straight for several minutes) contribute to muscle and tendon fatigue, and joint soreness
  • reaching forward or twisting to support a patient from behind to assist them in walking

Possible Solutions

Good work practice recommends avoiding awkward postures while lifting or moving patients.

  • Educate and train employees about safer lifting techniques.
  • Use assist devices or other equipment whenever possible.
  • Use team lifting based on assessment.
Back flexion
Twisting while lifting

Transferring Equipment

adjustable tub

Strains and sprains can occur if an employee is transferring equipment like IV poles, wheelchairs, oxygen canisters, respiratory equipment, dialysis equipment, x-ray machines, or multiple items at the same time.

To reduce the hazards of transferring equipment:

  • Place equipment on a rolling device if possible to allow for easier transport, or have wheels attached to the equipment.
  • Push rather than pull equipment when possible. Keep arms close to your body and push with your whole body not just your arms.
  • Assure that passageways are unobstructed.
  • Attach handles to equipment to help with the transfer process.
  • Get help moving heavy or bulky equipment or equipment that you can't see over.
  • Don't transport multiple items alone. For example, if you are moving a patient in a wheelchair in addition to an IV pole and/or other equipment get help. Do not overexert yourself.

Reaching Into Deep Sinks or Containers

If washing dishes, laundry, or working in maintenance areas and using a deep sink, limit excessive reaching and back flexion by:

  • Placing an object such as a plastic basin in the bottom of the sink, to raise the surface up while washing items in the sink, or
  • Removing objects to be washed into a smaller container on the counter for scrubbing or soaking and then replacing back in the sink for final rinse.

Lifting Heavy Bags

Limit reaching or lifting hazards when lifting trash, laundry or other kinds of bags by:

  • Using handling bags for laundry, garbage, and housekeeping when possible. Bags which have side openings to allow for easy disposal without reaching into and pulling bags up and out. The bags should be able to slide off the cart without lifting.
    • Limit the size and weight of these bags and provide handles to further decrease lifting hazards.
  • Using garbage cans that have a frame versus a solid can to prevent plastic bags from sticking to the inside of the can.
  • Use products that stick to the inside of the garbage can to prevent the bag from sticking.
    • Limit the size of the container to limit the weight of the load employee must lift and dump.
    • Place receptacles in unobstructed and easy to reach places.
  • Installing chutes and dumpsters at or below grade level.
  • Using spring-loaded platforms to help lift items such as laundry. These keep work at a comfortable uniform level.
handling bags
Handling bags
spring loaded platform
Spring-loaded platform

Using Hand Tools

hand tools

Limit strains and sprains of the wrists, arms, and shoulders, of maintenance workers by choosing hand tools carefully. Hand tools should:

  • Be properly designed, and fit to the user.
  • Have padded non-slip handles.
  • Wrist can remain straight by selecting ergonomic tools, such as ergonomic knives or bent-handled pliers
  • Have minimal tool weight.
  • Have minimal vibration or use vibration dampening devices and vibration-dampening gloves.
  • Use trigger bars rather than single finger triggers.
  • Not be used when performing highly repetitive manual motions by hand. You should use power tools instead (e.g., use power screwdrivers instead of manual screwdrivers).

Housekeeping Tasks


To decrease ergonomic stressors when employees are performing cleaning tasks employees should:

  • Alternate leading hand.
  • Avoid tight and static grip and use padded, non-slip handles.
  • Clean objects at waist level if possible, rather than bending over them (e.g., push wheelchairs up a ramped platform to
  • perform cleaning work, or raise beds to waist level before cleaning).
  • Use knee pads when kneeling.
  • Use tools with extended handles, or use step stools or ladders to avoid or limit overhead reaching.
  • When sweeping or dusting, use flat head dusters and push with the leading edge; sweep all areas into one pile and pick up with a vacuum.
  • Use chemical cleaners and soaks to minimize force needed for scrubbing.
  • Frequently change mopping styles when mopping (e.g. push/pull and rocking side to side) to alternate stress on muscles.
  • Be sure buckets, vacuums, and other cleaning tools, have wheels or are on wheeled containers with functional brakes.
  • Alternate tasks or rotate employees through stressful tasks.
  • Avoid awkward postures while cleaning (e.g. twisting and bending).
  • Use carts to transport supplies rather than carrying.
  • Use buffers and vacuums that have lightweight construction and adjustable handle heights.
  • Use spray bottles and equipment that have trigger bars rather than single finger triggers.



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. Which of the following is a good work practice technique to avoid awkward postures while lifting or moving patients?

2. How can you prevent plastic bags from sticking to the side of a garbage bag?

3. Hand tools should not be used when performing highly repetitive manual motions.

4. To decrease ergonomic stressors when performing cleaning tasks, you should _____.

5. Pull rather than push equipment when possible.

Have a great day!

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