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Course 774 - Safe Patient Handling Program

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

Management Support



One of the most important aspects of any safe patient handling program is support from hospital management and administration. Employees appreciate knowing their managers care about their well-being. They are also much more likely to follow safe patient handling policies if management stands behind them.

OSHA believes management leadership—combined with employee participation—should be a key component for establishing a safe patient handling program.

Building a Foundation

OSHA believes there are six essential components that should be utilized as a framework to design a facility’s safety and health program.

These components include:

  • management leadership/employee participation
  • workplace analysis
  • accident and record analysis
  • hazard prevention and control
  • medical management
  • training

Building a Foundation (Continued)


Before creating a safe patient handling program, the initial step is to engage the support of the facility’s management team related to employee injury reduction, employee safety, ergonomics, and safe patient handling.

Management support is required for several reasons:

  • consistency with the organizations objectives
  • allocate human and monetary resources necessary to implement such a program
  • determine how to integrate safe patient handling into the facility-wide ergonomics/injury prevention plan

Team Formation


Team formation is critical. Having the right members on the team will lead to the success of its efforts. Consideration of the following factors is key to success:

  • Define whom the team will be reporting to (i.e., safety committee, nursing service, or other department).
  • Determine members of the team. The team should include members from:
    • nursing
    • front line/administrative
    • patient care associates
    • physical therapy
    • occupational health
    • physicians
  • Identify a team leader. The leader should be provided with time and support staff to lead the program.
  • Be sure team members view themselves as “champions” for the program. They will help deliver and sell the message as the program is rolled out.
  • Develop the team’s vision, mission, and objectives.
  • Provide training to all team members, so everyone can participate on an equal basis.

Getting Started

The components of developing and implementing a safe patient-handling program include assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation. Not unlike the nursing process, activities of one step can overlap or occur concurrently, and there can be times that it is necessary to back up a step. Members of the team and the leader of the team need to remain focused yet flexible as the steps are accomplished.


The basic question that an assessment seeks to answer is this: Is there a problem in the facility? The components of the assessment step include a needs assessment and data analysis.

Collection of Injury Data

  • Gather historical data that includes MSD injuries by department, type of healthcare worker, body part injured, and the root cause of the injury. You should analyze at least one year of data.
  • Collect OSHA recordable injuries. Recordable injuries are injuries that require treatment beyond first aid, restricted, or days away from work.
  • Determine direct and indirect accident costs. In addition to the direct workers compensation insurance costs, there are the indirect or hidden costs related to an injury. These costs include staff accommodation for modified duty, supervisor time, decreased staff morale that decreases productivity, and costs related to replacement workers. Indirect costs have been estimated to be two and a half to four times the direct cost of a claim.
  • Gather other data, including the employee turnover rate and employee population demographics such as age. Human Resources can provide this data.

Worksite Analysis

Worksite analysis refers to a comprehensive evaluation of the department needs, along with existing equipment and how/why it is or is not utilized. Staff input is essential to gain insight into the issues that are interfering with the proper use of equipment.

The analysis includes:

  • equipment inventory
  • patient dependency needs
  • potential high-risk patient handling tasks
  • departments with high risk or special needs related to patient handing (i.e., operating room, emergency department, radiology, critical care, etc.)

Conducting Assessment

The first step in conducting the assessment is to plan how the review will be conducted. Establish a timeline. Enlist the help of team members and provide the support and guidance needed to complete their portions of the assessment. It is usually better to do as much of the analysis as possible using inside resources, but sometimes an outside provider may be necessary to evaluate complicated situations.

Data Analysis

Data analysis includes the following steps:

  • Identify the leading types of MSDs related to patient handling, as well as the department and staff involved in the injuries.
  • Identify the root cause of injuries in the high-risk areas.
  • Identify what issues are preventing staff from using existing equipment. (i.e.,lack of availability, lack of storage, lack of training, etc.).
  • Complete a cost-benefit analysis of the return on investment and the cost to the organization if nothing is done.

Equipment Cost


Several case studies have shown that the initial capital investment in programs and equipment needed to safely handle patients can be recovered in two to five years, particularly when equipment purchases are coupled with training and policies to produce a lasting impact.

Although there can be considerable equipment, training, and infrastructure costs associated with implementing safe patient handling, hospitals with successful programs have found that the long-term benefits far outweigh economic costs.

Those benefits include:

  • reduced injuries
  • decreases in lost time and workers' compensation claims
  • increased productivity
  • higher quality of work life and worker satisfaction
  • staff retention
  • better patient care and satisfaction

Management Support for Other Departments

Management support should encompass more than just the workers who are responsible for direct patient care. Departments such as laundry, maintenance, and engineering are vital to supporting safe patient handling. Those departments maintain equipment, supply clean slings, and troubleshoot facility design issues.

It is also a good idea for management to talk to and collaborate with employees' union representatives, where applicable, before launching or expanding a safe patient handling program.

At hospitals that have successfully reduced patient handling injuries, it is common to find administrators who support and promote a culture of safety. While weighing the benefits of investing in safe patient handling policies, procedures, training, and equipment, however, hospital administrators may need to fully understand how these investments impact their bottom line.

We will take a closer look at evaluating the effectiveness of a safe patient handling program in module 4 of this course.


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 one of the most important aspects of any safe patient handling program?

2. Team members’ should view themselves as _____ for the program.

3. The initial capital investment in programs and equipment needed to safely handle patients can be recovered in _____.

4. Staff input is not necessary to gain insight into the issues that are interfering with the proper use of lifting equipment.

5. The first step in conducting an assessment is to plan _____ the review will be conducted.

Have a great day!

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