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Course 774 - Safe Patient Handling Program

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

MSD Assessment

Hospitals have serious hazards, including lifting and moving patients.


Hospitals have serious hazards, from lifting and moving patients, to slips, trips, and falls. Caregivers feel an ethical duty to "do no harm" to patients, and some will even put their own safety and health at risk to help a patient.

Hospital work can be surprisingly dangerous!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the likelihood of injury or illness resulting in days away from work is higher in hospitals than in construction and manufacturing—two industries that are traditionally thought to be relatively hazardous. Every day, nurses, nursing assistants, and others are injured handling patients transfers.

High Cost of Injuries


Injuries and illnesses come at a high cost. When an employee gets hurt on the job, hospitals pay the price in many ways, including:

  • workers' compensation for lost wages and medical costs
  • temporary staffing
  • backfilling
  • overtime when injured employees miss work
  • turnover costs when an injured employee quits
  • decreased productivity and morale as employees become physically and emotionally fatigued

Generally, the cost per workers compensation injury claim will range from $3,000 to over $10,000, but it can cost much more. The most expensive injuries by healthcare workers are caused by overexertion and slipping, tripping, or falling. Injuries sustained from these actions on a dry, level surface have an average cost per claim of about $9,000.

Workplace safety also affects patient care. Manual lifting can injure caregivers and also put patients at risk of falls, fractures, bruises, and skin tears. Caregiver fatigue, injury, and stress are tied to a higher risk of medication errors and patient infections.

Rate of MSD Injuries

The healthcare industry has a high rate of MSD injury cases.

In 2017, top three occupations that had the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders were bus drivers, emergency responders, and nurses. In 2018, 30 percent of the total Days Away From Work (DAFW) were MSD cases. The healthcare and social assistance industry had 56,360 MSD cases in 2018 with a median days away from work for MSD cases of 8.

Registered nurses and nursing assistants were among the top 10 occupations with the highest percentage of injuries involving MSDs in 2018. Nursing assistants reported 15,360 injuries and registered nurses reported 8,390. MSD cases made up 52 percent of all Days Away From Work (DAFW) cases to nursing assistants.

Assessing the Size and Nature of Problem

The first step in addressing the issue of patient handling is to assess the size and nature of the problem. Comprehensive reporting of worker injuries helps ensure that you have the data available to develop your hospital's safe patient handling program.

Assessment Steps

Below are some steps you can take to assess your safe patient handling concerns and needs.

  1. Review injury data for your facility. Injury data can be a useful diagnostic tool. Such data include:
    • OSHA 300 Log and OSHA Form 301
    • Workers' compensation claim summaries
    • Incident/accident investigation reports
    • Corrective action reports
    • Safety inspections and observations

    OSHA already requires many workplaces (including any hospital with more than 10 employees) to use the OSHA 300 Log to report serious job related injuries and to complete the Form 301 for every recordable injury. The OSHA 300 Log and Form 301, available on OSHA's website, help to identify work areas or tasks where injuries frequently occur.

    Please see OSHAcademy course 708 OSHA Recordkeeping Basics for more information.

Assessing the Size and Nature of Problem (Continued)

  1. Examine the overall injury rates and see how they compare to others. Administrators and safety managers can use OSHA's self-assessment checklist to examine your hospital's injury rates and compare them with national averages and high-performing hospitals.
  2. Examine your patient handling injury rates and start to pinpoint areas of concern. Use OSHA's patient handling self-assessment tool to review and reflect on the number, nature, and cost of patient handling injuries in your hospital.
  3. Be proactive. A more forward-looking approach, to be used in combination with reviewing injury and illness records, is to be proactive in identifying potential problems that have gone unnoticed, before they result in injuries. Observations of workplace conditions and work processes, job analyses, workplace surveys, and worker interviews are common proactive methods for identifying problems before they result in injury.


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. What is the first step in addressing the issue of patient handling?

2. Which of the following is a step to take to assess your safe handling concerns?

3. What are common proactive methods for identifying problems before they result in injury?

4. ____ can be a useful diagnostic tool track injury rates.

5. ______ was one of the top five occupations for total days-away-from-work injuries in 2011.

Have a great day!

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