After attending a session on "Ergonomics In Health Care" and discussing injury prevention initiatives by hospitals and long term care facilities, I was struck by how much money, and effort goes into these government and privately funded programs to ensure the safety of the Health Care employees.
Patient lifting and handling training has been around for years is in integral part of protecting nurses and other hospital staff from MSI's, and most places do a great job of offering the training regularly to reduce employee injures and lost time. With the shift to e-health from paper charting, it is not surprising that we are now seeing a rise in upper extremity MSI's due to nurses and medical staff using the portable computer stations in the hallways and nursing stations.
With computer related injuries on the rise in hospitals, I can't help wonder how small community based disability serving health care companies like private home care, respite , residential agencies, day programs and employment support programs are dealing with this challenge. For these agencies, generally they have by law a Workplace Safety & Health Committee or maybe only one WPSH rep, but they usually can't afford consultation from a professional ergonomist or hire can hire a safety officer or have resources to pull together an ergonomics committee. So, I'm left thinking that other than regular lifting and transferring training, these high risk employees and their office staff may not be addressing all the ergonomic risk factors in their jobs, especially if using computers have become an essential function in their work day.
There are many online office ergonomics guidelines as well as patient lifting and handling guidelines available for community agencies to use and adapt for their specific business. My hope is that these companies will apply the principals of office ergonomics when buying furniture and equipment for their office staff, accommodating injured workers, and make computer ergonomics as big of a priority as the patient lifting and handling, in reducing the MSI's related to caring for people with disabilities in the community. Because of the large sample populations in hospitals, there are many studies about computer related MSI, but I have yet to find a study about computer related injuries in community health care, due to the variety of settings and nature of work.
I have been discussing the need for more ergonomic training with community health care agencies and will be bringing these groups together in Winnipeg , Spring 2012 for a two day "Improving Ergonomics in Community Health Care"- A Workshop for caregivers and managers, that will include a trade show of disability and ergonomic related products, a half day Client Lifting and Handling Certification Training , a half day of Office Ergonomics Training, and a full day of breakout sessions dealing with topics related to protecting employees from injury from pre-employment to return to work, following an injury. If you would like to take part in this initiative or would like to share resources with other community health care companies, please submit your name and email and I will add you to the network.
Marnie Courage, OT Reg.(MB)