From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Ergonomics in Health Care Highlighted

The OHS initiatives of WorkCover NSW featured prominently in the recent ergonomics conference in Sydney (the Ergonomics Society of Australia’s 37th Annual Conference). In particular, the conference featured a large number of presentations on the design of work systems and the redesign of workplace
equipment. Several projects demonstrated effective strategies for reducing body stressing injuries due to common manual handling tasks (such as lifting, pulling and pushing loads). WorkCover New South Wales, the major sponsor, can be justifiably proud to have been associated with a conference that was both vibrant and topical.

The conference covered a wide range of topics but it had a particularly strong focus on the health care industry (and the transport industry to a much lesser extent). The papers on the health care industry included a keynote address by Kathleen Rockefeller from the USA that described her research on getting to Zero-lift in Washington State Nursing Homes. This paper described an intervention study where government and industry assessed the implementation of zero-lift programs in nursing homes and evaluated the resulting changes to the incidence and severity of injuries amongst the employees (especially amongst the nursing assistants). Kathleen concluded that financial incentives for the purchase of new equipment have encouraged nursing homes to implement the programs but the motivation of the key people involved remains a vital issue.

Louise Whitby, Marcia Lusted and Michael Stevenson gave a paper on “Patient Handling Aids for Ambulance Transfers” that described a study project that was funded by a grant from WorkCover New South Wales. The project looked at the relative merits of carry chairs, carry sheets, slings, stretchers and
walk belts for lifting patients from the ground (and onto gurneys).

Mary McLeod (Senior Project Officer in the HACS team) presented a paper on the utilisation of the “Manual Handling Competencies for Nurses” by health and community service organisations and educational establishments in New South Wales. This presented research she did for the HACS team and its
Industry Research Group. It described the use of the competencies in the education of nurses and the application of this training to the reduction of manual handling injuries. The utilisation rate in educational establishments was found to be 100% but the utilisation in health and community services organisations is only 50%. The findings should prove very useful for the development of future strategies to promote more widespread use of the competencies.

David McFarlane (Ergonomist, HACS team) presented a poster on unpublished research (done with Martin Turner of South East Sydney Health) on the use of slide boards and slide sheets to lower the risk of shoulder injuries when transferring patients from beds to trolleys. The poster was titled “The Measurements of the Forces needed to Move Patients from Beds to Trolleys”.

David McFarlane assisted Martin Turner to measure the pull forces required to slide a patient from a bed to a trolley using a variety of commercially available sliding products. Manual handling injuries from bed to trolley transfers have been reported. The aim of the research was to determine if the pulling forces could be reduced for this task by using an alternative sliding product or combination of products.

The research project evaluated the usefulness of the following products: full-length slide boards, hip and shoulder boards, bed slide sheets, slide tubes and roller boards (and some combinations of these handling aids). A small adult female and a large adult male were used as surrogate patients to represent the extremes of the patient population.

The pulling force required to transfer a patient from bed to trolley via the common slide board method was reduced by almost a third when a slide sheet or a slide tube was placed over the slide board. Similarly, the use of a roller board also reduced the pulling forces by almost a third compared to the sideboard alone method.

In conclusion, the results of this research indicate that bed to trolley transfers can be made much safer by simply placing a relatively cheap slide sheet or slide tube over the existing slide board. The poster sparked a great deal of interest (and it evidently impressed the judges as it won an award for best poster).

With the conclusion of this conference and the National Ergonomics Conference that was held in Las Vegas, NV, USA last week, it is clear the ergonomics is still a hot topic. People attended ergonomics conferences to learn about new innovations, refresh old topics, network with peers, and gain something that will make a difference to the lives and work of others. If you missed these conferences, check for what’s coming up next in Ergoweb’s Upcoming Events at