Manual handling remains the single largest cause of injuries to health care workers. Importantly, manual handling injuries are a significant cause of the loss of nurses from health and community services. Other occupational groups at risk include facility cleaners and health care assistants.

What is different to other Manual Handling?

You are most likely working in healthcare because you want to help people. Often the people you help have poor mobility. They depend on you to get around or in some cases just the simple task of turning in bed.

The human body is a very awkward heavy object.  If you were asked to work in another job where you were required to move objects weighing an average 80kg or more, you would probably be going for the forklift. Yet some healthcare workers continue to handle patients, day in day out, as if there were no consequences. Everybody knows of a colleague who has chronic back or neck pain due to working in the healthcare industry.

How bad is the problem?

The following major contributors to nurse injuries have been recorded:

  • manual handling of people
  • muscular stress with no objects being handled
  • slips, trips and falls
  • manual handling of trolleys
  • the use and adjustment of beds
  • handling of linen and lead aprons.

Sprains and strains were the main types of manual handling injury. Of injuries to registered nurses, 40 per cent involved the back, 12 per cent the upper limbs, and 9 per cent the lower limbs. Of injuries to enrolled nurses, 30 per cent were to the back and 17 per cent to the upper limbs. Beds were involved in nearly all patient-handling activities where injuries occurred, e.g. repositioning and transferring patients.

Manual handling is the most common cause of injuries for employees working in aged care facilities, accounting for 58 per cent of all injuries.  Nurses, carers, cleaners, laundry, maintenance, administration and kitchen staff have all been injured during manual handling.