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Course 772 - Introduction to Safe Patient Handling

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

Education and Training



Training and education are critical to the success of any safe patient handling program, especially training on proper patient handling equipment use and ongoing education about the benefits of safe patient handling. By educating all staff, including physicians, about your safe patient handling program, hospitals can reduce instances of a clinician asking or expecting colleagues to move patients in an unsafe way.

Training can range from onsite demonstrations of equipment use and maintenance to broader safe patient handling education programs and national conferences.

Comprehensive Approach to Education and Training

The following are some ideas for a comprehensive approach to safe patient handling education and training:

  • Make sure that all relevant workers are trained on using the mechanical lift equipment. Caregivers should feel comfortable using the equipment. If the caregiver uses the equipment correctly and efficiently, patients will feel more comfortable too.
  • Refresh, remind, and require ongoing training. Programs tend to be less successful over time if they do not receive adequate attention. Including safe patient handling procedures and policies in annual competency sessions is one way to remind workers of the program's importance and promote equipment proficiency. The American Nurses Association recommends that hospitals establish systems for education, training, and maintaining competencies.
  • Consider mentors and peer education champions. In addition to monitoring new employees, nurse managers and other "safety champions" can serve as mentors and peer coaches in every unit, reminding their colleagues how and when to use safe patient handling procedures and equipment.
  • Train caregivers to check each patient's mobility every time. Every patient has unique characteristics and mobility capabilities. It is important to assess these regularly, and to communicate each patient's level of mobility and need for assistance to all relevant caregivers.
  • Engage patients and their families. Patients may not understand the need for mechanical equipment at first. You can engage them in safe handling by explaining to them and their families that it is for their safety as well as the workers' safety.

Safety and Health Management System Awareness Training

All employees need overview training on the organization’s safety and health policy, goals, basic operations and functions of the safety and health management system, hazard recognition and avoidance techniques, and emergency response procedures. All employees should know and understand the principles behind the system, their roles and responsibilities under the system, and the means used to communicate safety- and health-related information in the workplace.

The frequency and timing of training will vary based on the size and nature of the organization. This training should also be provided to contractors and temporary employees.

Training in Specific Roles

Some employees have specific roles in the safety and health management system, such as:

  • inspecting the workplace for hazards
  • conducting safety audits
  • selecting and instituting hazard controls
  • investigating incidents

These employees must know how to carry out their responsibilities and follow any internal or external procedures. Their training should emphasize how their actions directly impact the effectiveness of the safety and health management system. For example, an employee who is designated to receive reports of hazards must know what to do with those reports and how to respond to them. In many cases, this employee would also need to know who should be assigned responsibility for instituting control measures.

As a safety and health management system evolves, a more formal process may be instituted for determining the training needs of employees responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining the safety and health management system.

Training for Hazard Identification Controls

Through training, employees should be made aware of and able to recognize the hazards they may encounter while at work. These include hazards specific to their job as well as more general workplace hazards.

Employees should also understand:

  • the measures that taken to control hazards,
  • why controls are important, and
  • why controls must remain in place.

For example, if employees are not made aware of the hazards of noise exposure (e.g., in a hospital laundry or on a heliport), it is unlikely that they will use a control (e.g., hearing protection).

Provide Job-Specific Training

In an effective safety and health management system, efforts are taken to define training needs for specific jobs and to ensure that these needs are met. Job-specific requirements can be satisfied through a combination of education, experience, and training. After training, employees should be observed as they work to ensure that the safe work practices and other required procedures are consistently carried out.

Regardless of the type or size of the workplace, the goal is to give employees the training, knowledge, and skills they need to implement the safety and health management system and perform their jobs safely. Employers should make sure to recognize the training needs of employees who have English as a second language, physical limitations, or other special needs, and adjust the training materials or delivery methods accordingly.

Education and training needs, training methods, and the content of training programs differ from workplace to workplace. Choices depend on the distinct features of an organization’s safety and health management system, the type and complexity of the work performed, the type and extent of hazards in the workplace, and the characteristics of the employees themselves.

Training for Charge Nurses and Supervisors


Charge nurses and supervisors should reinforce the safety program of the facility, oversee reporting guidelines, and help ensure the implementation of resident and task specific ergonomic recommendations.

Charge nurses and supervisors are likely to receive reports of injuries, and are usually responsible for implementing the facilities work practice controls, they may need more detailed training than nursing assistants on:

  • methods for ensuring use of proper work practices
  • how to respond to injury reports
  • how to help other workers implement solutions

Training for Designated Program Managers

Staff members who are responsible for planning and managing ergonomic efforts need training so they can identify concerns and choose appropriate solutions. These staff members should receive information and training that will allow them to:

  • Identify potential problems related to physical activities in the workplace through the following:
    • observation
    • use of checklists
    • injury data and analysis
    • other analytical tools
  • Address problems by selecting proper equipment and work practices.
  • Help other workers implement solutions.
  • Evaluate the ergonomics efforts.

Education and Training: Best Practices and Examples

Saint Thomas
At Southern Ohio Medical Center, safe patient handling training fills a full day.

Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital: breaking down language barriers

Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, was challenged to ensure that its safety training would be understood by all its environmental services staff, who speak 17 different native languages. To address this challenge, they set up a buddy system that pairs bilingual associates with those who have some difficulties in English.

The system has worked well. “Previously, we had employees who would nod and say they understood, but we never really knew for sure,” said Environmental Services Supervisor David Cope. “Now those same employees are asking questions through their buddies. We know they want to learn, and now they have the help they need.”

Southern Ohio Medical Center: Oriented toward safety

Orientation for new employees at Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) in Portsmouth, Ohio, includes a half-day safety curriculum that covers the hospital’s safety culture, error prevention, ergonomics, safe patient handling, and em¬ployee health and wellness. Nurses’ orientation is a full week, and safe patient handling training fills a full day. Residents, too, receive training on these topics.

D-Day (Development Day) is an organization-wide, mandatory annual refresher training for all workers and is based on the hospital’s core values, of which safety is one. Workers take safety refreshers and are tested on their knowledge. SOMC also requires annual driver safety training for anyone who drives for the hospital.



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. The frequency and timing of safety and health training will vary based on the _____ of the organization.

2. Employees do NOT need to understand the measures the employer has taken to control hazards in the workplace.

3. _____ need more detailed training on how to respond to injury reports.

Have a great day!

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