Ergonomics & Injury Prevention in Nursing Homes

Caregivers and support staff in nursing homes face many operational challenges. One of the leading challenges is that of workplace injuries. Nurses experience staggering injury rates across the entire healthcare industry, and in nursing homes, injuries are all too common. While nursing home workers’ compensation insurance provides financial benefits for individuals injured on the job, preventing injuries in the first place should be a priority for nursing home facility managers. By applying ergonomics, and by addressing common sources of injury, facilities and their staffs can continue to provide compassionate care for nursing home residents.

Worker Injuries in Nursing Homes: Alarming Figures

Just how prevalent are injuries to the caregivers and staffs of nursing homes? Researchers sought answers to that question and published their results in the Journal of Nursing Home Research in 2016. According to researchers, nursing homes have occupational injury and illness rates exceeding those of dangerous professions like mining, trucking, and heavy manufacturing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) deemed nursing homes among the most dangerous workplaces in the United States. Many of the injuries suffered by caregivers and assistants are centered on patient handling practices. In fact, in the research and supporting statistics provided by the BLS, nursing homes rank highest for:

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Tears of connective tissues and cartilage
  • Back injuries
  • Work-related musculoskeletal disorders

Altogether, work-related injuries cost the healthcare industry at least $7 billion annually and account for thousands of lost work hours. Some of the injured workers may be unable to return to the workplace, putting strains on nursing home workers’ compensation policies.

What is Ergonomics?

To address workplace injuries across industries, the concept of ergonomics has provided solutions. Ergonomics is the study of how people interact with the working environment. Ergonomic principles are applied to workplaces and equipment to fit them to workers’ needs and motions rather than forcing workers to adopt awkward or dangerous circumstances. Ultimately, this scientific pursuit is designed to reduce or eliminate the factors that lead to workplace injuries.

Preventing Nursing Home Staff Injuries with Ergonomics

Ergonomics came to the forefront of workplace safety in the 1970s, although the concept was first developed in the mid-1850s. Ergonomic researchers studied dozens of occupations, then developed solutions that served to reduce the frequency and severity of workplace injuries. Injury hazards exist in nursing homes, particularly when it comes to transporting, repositioning, or moving residents who are unable to do so on their own.

In nursing homes, ergonomic solutions may include:

  • Specialized patient handling and moving equipment.
  • Patient “lift teams” with training to prevent musculoskeletal injury.
  • Training and guidance on safe lifting/moving procedures.

The expenses associated with investments in ergonomic equipment, procedures, and training are offset by the staggering costs of workplace injuries and lost productivity. Workers injured on the job have protection in the form of nursing home workers’ compensation insurance, but by preventing injuries in the first place, facility managers can provide safe conditions that allow caregivers to deliver their compassionate services to residents.

About Caitlin Morgan

Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.