Preventing Employee Injuries at Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities
A common Workers Compensation risk for nursing homes involves resident lifting and repositioning. The risk factors that workers in nursing homes face include: force – the amount of physical effort required to perform a task (such as heavy lifting); repetition – performing the same motion or series of motions continually or frequently; and awkward postures – assuming positions that place stress on the body, such as reaching above shoulder height, kneeling, squatting, leaning over a bed, or twisting the torso while lifting.
According to OSHA, excessive exposure to these risk factors can result in a variety of disorders in affected workers. These conditions known as musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, include low back pain, sciatica, rotator cuff injuries, epicondylitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Following are some OSHA guidelines for nursing home and assisted living clients to help minimize work-related musculoskeletal disorders losses and keep employees safe at their facilities.
Provide Management Support: Employers should develop clear goals, assign responsibilities to designated staff members to achieve those goals, provide necessary resources, and ensure that assigned responsibilities are fulfilled on an ongoing basis.
Involve Employees: Get employees involved in problem solving and hazard identification assistance, which will help to enhance worker motivation and job satisfaction, and lead to greater acceptance when changes are made in the workplace. Employees can: submit suggestions or concerns; discuss the workplace and work methods; participate in the design of work, equipment, procedures, and training; evaluate equipment; respond to employee surveys; participate in task groups with responsibility for ergonomics; and participate in developing the nursing home’s ergonomics process.
Identify Problems: Nursing homes that recognize problems by establishing systematic methods for identifying ergonomics concerns in their workplace are more successful in injury prevention. Information about where problems or potential problems may occur in nursing homes can be obtained from a variety of sources, including reports of workers’ compensation claims, accident investigation reports, insurance company reports, employee interviews and surveys, and reviews and observations of workplace conditions. Once information is obtained, it can be used to identify and evaluate elements of jobs that are associated with problems.
Implement Solutions: When problems related to ergonomics are identified, appropriate options can then be selected and implemented to eliminate hazards. Effective solutions usually involve workplace modifications that eliminate hazards and improve the work environment. These changes usually include the use of equipment, work practices, or both. When choosing methods for lifting and repositioning residents, individual factors should be taken into account. Such factors include the resident’s rehabilitation plan, the need to restore the resident’s functional abilities, medical contraindications, emergency situations, and resident dignity and rights.
Address Reports of Injuries: Even in establishments with effective safety and health programs, injuries and illnesses may occur. Work-related MSDs should be managed in the same way and under the same process as any other occupational injury or illness. Like many injuries and illnesses, employers and employees can benefit from early reporting of MSDs. Early diagnosis and intervention, including alternative duty programs, are particularly important in order to limit the severity of injury, improve the effectiveness of treatment, minimize the likelihood of disability or permanent damage, and reduce the amount of associated workers’ compensation claims and costs.
Provide Training: Training is necessary to ensure that employees and managers can recognize potential ergonomics issues in the workplace, and understand measures that are available to minimize the risk of injury. Ergonomics training can be integrated into general training on performance requirements and job practices. Effective training covers the problems found in each employee’s job.
Evaluate Ergonomics Efforts: Nursing homes should evaluate the effectiveness of their ergonomics efforts and follow-up on unresolved problems. Evaluation helps sustain the effort to reduce injuries and illnesses, track whether or not ergonomic solutions are working, identify new problems, and show areas where further improvement is needed. For example, after introducing a new lift at a nursing home, the employer should follow up by talking with employees to ensure that the problem has been adequately addressed.
Nursing homes that have implemented injury prevention efforts focusing on resident lifting and repositioning methods have achieved considerable success in reducing work-related injuries and associated Workers Compensation costs.
Caitlin-Morgan specializes in the insurance and risk management needs of nursing home & assisted living facilities. Please give us a call at 877.226.1027 to discuss our programs.
Article Source: OSHA