The Role of Safe Patient Handling in Risk Management

Safe patient handling has long been an area of concern for nurses and para-professionals, especially those who work in home care. As one of the fastest developing sectors in the health care industry, the demand for home health care providers is only going to continue to grow. While many technological advances have been made to assist with patient handling, the ongoing physical demands these health care workers face are numerous, stressing the importance of a sound Home Health Care Risk Management strategy.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cites musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as one of the top sources of injury to health care workers, not only in the home care setting, but also in long-term care, acute care, physical therapy, etc. Repeated manual patient handling activities, such as heavy manual lifting associated with transferring and repositioning patients, often cause overexertion injuries to health care staff. High risk patient handling tasks typically include:

  • Transferring a patient from toilet to chair or from chair to bed;
  • Transferring patient from bathtub to chair;
  • Repositioning patient from side to side in bed;
  • Lifting a patient into their bed;
  • Repositioning a patient in a chair; or
  • Making a bed with a patient in it.

Benefits of Safe Patient Handling

According to OSHA, the use of assistive equipment has been shown to reduce exposure to manual lifting injuries by up to 95%. Not only do safe patient handling programs reduce injury risk for health care workers and patients, but they also provide an overall better quality of patient care. OSHA cites these additional employer benefits as well:

  • More Satisfying Work Environment;
  • Improved Nursing Recruitment and Retention;
  • Increases Patient Satisfaction and Comfort;
  • Decreased Patient Falls and Pressure Ulcers; and
  • Reduced Costs Associated With Injuries.

Preventing Patient Handling Hazards for Home Health Care Employees and Clients

Safe patient handling is an important part of a home health care agency’s risk management strategy for multiple reasons. As cited by OSHA, injuries account for higher employer costs due to medical expenses, workers’ compensation and litigation. The long-term effects may be detrimental as well; home health care worker injuries could result in chronic pain and permanent or long-term functional disability, absenteeism, and eventual employee turnover.

How can home care agencies help avoid these risks? Agencies can provide devices that are specifically designed to assist with patient lifting and transfer. Developing and implementing a safe patient handling program and providing workers with appropriate measures to avoid manual handling where possible is also key. The education and training of home health care staff should include assessment of hazards in their work settings, appropriate selection and use of patient lifting equipment and devices and safe patient handling transfer techniques.

Home health care workers are not the only individuals at risk; patients could be injured if not assisted properly. It’s vital that home care agencies consistently review research-based practices of safe patient handling with their staff, and invest in equipment that will set their staff up for success. Overall, a home healthcare agency’s goal should be to eliminate manual patient handling as much as possible, to prevent further injury to a patient who may already be suffering from various physical ailments. In the case of an employee injury, the home care firm should have a clear return to work program in conjunction with their workers’ compensation insurance carrier/program.  These risk management efforts will not only improve patient care and employee morale, but could also help agencies avoid claims of negligence or intentional harm that could come from the patient or their family.

At Manchester Specialty Programs, we understand the wide range of loss exposures faced by health care organizations. Not only do we provide a comprehensive insurance program, including Workers’ Compensation, but we also offer robust loss control measures and risk management services. These services include, but are not limited to:

  • Risk Assessment Tools
  • Patient Safety Consulting and Training
  • On-the-Job Safety for Employees
  • Safe Patient Handling Procedures
  • Return to work programs
  • Onsite Visits, Assessments, and Surveys (Fee May be Applicable)

To find out more about our operation and all of our specialty insurance programs, you or your local insurance broker can give us a call today at 855-972-9399.