Have you ever wondered if the physical tasks you perform at work are safe? In healthcare, for instance, overexertion from repetitive manual patient handling is the primary cause of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) for staff. Because daily duties routinely involve heavy manual lifting, pushing, or pulling, healthcare has the highest rate of MSDs among all industries. And different medical specialties come with different dangers. For instance, endoscopy (GI) staff must worry about the risks of applying abdominal pressure during colonoscopy, especially on obese patients.
To determine safe limits for physical maneuvers related to your job, explore the new manual materials handling tool and related tables developed by Liberty Mutual. Instead of giving the maximum acceptable weights and forces, these resources provide the male and female population percentages capable of performing manual material handling tasks without overexertion. (Note that designing manual tasks for more than 75% of the female work population offers the best protection from manual handling injuries.)
For example, according to a Female - Pushing Task Sustained Forces assessment, a female endoscopy technician can safely apply 23 pounds of pressure to a patient’s abdomen at a height of 35 inches for a total of five minutes in one eight-hour period. Increasing the duration or the force would put her at risk for injury. Unfortunately, during a colonoscopy, 30 to 100 pounds of pressure might be required for over ten minutes, and this might happen ten or more times a day!
Before using the manual materials handling tool, be sure to read the instructions and cautions, which point out that the dangers associated with patient handling tasks are not limited to population percentages. For instance, the distance away from one's body that a load is held greatly affects the forces on the back, shoulders, and arms. The farther the reach, the more physically stressful the task.
Over the next week, select two or three physical tasks that are part of your job; then determine how safe they actually are. Knowing is the first step toward making a change in the way you work.