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Back Injury Prevention: Safe Patient Handling

Back injuries are part of a larger category of work-related injuries known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and/or spinal discs. (MSDs do not include disorders caused by slips, trips, falls, motor vehicle accidents, or similar accidents.)

In healthcare, most MSD’s are the result of overexertion related to repeated manual patient handling activities, often associated with transferring, and repositioning patients. According to CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), nurses and related patient care occupations, have high rates of back, shoulder and other MSD injuries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than 130,000 lost-time cases of work-related back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, sprains, strains and tears associated with the Healthcare and Social Assistance sector (HCSA). More than 50 percent of the MSDs reported for nurses, aides and assistants were back injuries.

Organizations are taking steps to improve safe patient handling and movement, reduce workers’ musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as back injuries, and create an improved safety culture in healthcare workplaces.

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