NIOSH study on nursing home lifting equipment: benefits outweigh costs

September 8th, 2006 by Julie Ferguson

Does an investment in mechanized patient lifting equipment pay for itself? Yes, according to a recent NIOSH study. In an article entitled Making the Case for a Safe Lifting Program in Nursing Homes, Josh Cable discusses the NIOSH study in Occupational Hazards. The agency’s six-year study encompassed 1,728 nursing personnel at six nursing homes ranging in size from 60 to 120 beds. Each of these facilities used mechanical lifting equipment and re-positioning aids, trained workers, and implemented a zero-lift policy. Among the results:

“The initial investment of $158,556 for lifting equipment and worker training was recovered in less than three years based on post-intervention savings of $55,000 annually in workers’ compensation costs,” the authors concluded.

Other quantifiable improvements in worker safety, according to NIOSH, included a 61 percent reduction in resident-handling workers’ compensation injury rates; a 66 percent drop in lost workday rates; and a 38 percent decline in restricted workdays.

Also, the rate of post-intervention assaults during resident transfers was down 72 percent based on workers’ compensation claims, 50 percent based on OSHA 200 Logs and 30 percent based on first reports of injury data.

No doubt about it, these numbers are impressive. But aren’t patient handling injuries a problem that proper training in safe lifting and body mechanics can prevent? According to NIOSH, training alone is ineffective as a prevention strategy because “lifting the weight of adult patients is intrinsically unsafe.” It’s also important to note that the equipment alone won’t do it – workers also need to be trained how to use the equipment, and management must implement and enforce a “zero lifting” policy.
For more information, see Safe Lifting and Movement of Nursing Home Residents from NIOSH. Also, see our previous post, Washington passes “Safe Patient Handling” legislation.