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Costly Consequences of Lifting and Moving Patients

March 22, 2017

Costly Consequences of Lifting and Moving Patients

The risk of work-related musculoskeletal injury to healthcare professionals increases as the healthcare workforce ages and patient obesity rises. Poor patient outcomes, increased employer costs of subsequent care, and even malpractice claims are among the consequences of dropping patients during nursing handling tasks. Now, in addition to these costly consequences, we see OSHA fines for hospitals that fail to help nurses lift overweight patients.

According to Health Professionals and Allied Employees, a nurse could lift up 1.8 tons in one typical 8-hour shift. The impact of repeatedly handling such weight has prompted the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue the 2015 “OSHA Memorandum, Inspection Guidance for Inpatient Healthcare Settings."

To accompany this policy, OSHA established a program to protect nursing staff from unsafe workplace responsibilities. OSHA developed a Safe Patient Handling website for a host of resources to educate about workplace hazards and solutions, but also reinforce best practices in safe patient transfer with training and additional resources. Access the website at  

While some states have passed legislation to regulate safe patient handling, OSHA is now actively auditing and issuing fines for violation of their policy for hospitals.

OSHA's inspectors will interview nursing staff and managers, and review internal hospital documents, to answer questions such as:

  • What kinds of machines and other devices are used by the hospital to move patients?
  • Does the hospital have an adequate supply of the equipment?
  • How well does the hospital train its staff to use it?
  • Does management track and promptly treat injuries among nursing staff?

LAMMICO reminds readers that risk management consultation services are offered to our insured physicians, medical office staff, hospitals and facilities. To learn more about LAMMICO’s Risk Management and Patient Safety on-site risk assessments, click here or contact a LAMMICO Risk Manager to schedule an appointment.


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