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Ergonomics: Lift team qualifications


Can you give me guidelines for a lifting team - who is qualified, staff training, indicators for lifting requirements. Please give specifics. Some of the answers are too vague. Thank you.

Maria Reyes
Coral Springs Medical Center


Dear Maria:

The Lift Doctor appreciates your request for specific guidelines relating to recruitment, training, and implementation of lift teams in your facility. Of course, in order to give you a more definitive answer we would have to know additional information about your facility, its size, injury incident rates, goals, etc. However, following is our recommendation based on industry averages.

Recruitment: To begin, lift team members are not immune to back and musculoskeletal injuries. Further, these injuries can be life altering experiences, affecting both the personal and professional lives of injured team members. Team members should be selected on the basis of 1) their physical capabilities and fitness, 2) ability to learn how to use mechanical transfer and lifting devices correctly, and 3) ability to learn about anatomy and physiology relevant to back injury so that they can properly lift patients in the safest possible manner. Team members can be recruited from existing staff (nurses or other) or they can be hired specifically to perform this task.

Staff Training: Lifting should be viewed as a learned or acquired skill involving specialized training and mandated use of mechanical equipment, rather than as a specialized task performed by muscular young bodybuilders. Your lift team should be specially trained in proper body mechanics, lifting techniques, and the use of mandated mechanical equipment. Training should be covered in two aspects:

1) Ergonomic experience - during the initial stage of the team's training, a physical therapist should demonstrate stretching exercises to be performed at the beginning of their shifts, proper ergonomic patient handling techniques, and end-of-shift evaluations to determine if they are experiencing pain or discomfort

2) Equipment experience - lift team members should become very familiar with available equipment, including mobile floor lifts, overhead ceiling lifts, repositioning and transfer sheets, lift belts, and other specialized aids. Team members should also serve as mentors to others by demonstrating safe use of the equipment in the event the lift team members are unavailable. Ultimately, the objective is to protect a valuable resource - the health care worker.

Indicators for Lifting: Workers in most industries, except in healthcare, are recommended to limit their weight lifting to 51 lbs, per OSHA (NIOSH) requirements. Since their initial findings of maximum weight lifting recommendations, NIOSH has lowered that weight limit for healthcare workers to 35 lbs. Lift team members should be instructed to avoid the temptation to lift patients manually. If the lifting force required is more than the above limits, mechanical lifts should be used. Further, bed-to-gurney transfers and in-bed repositioning are equally dangerous. Thus lift team members and caregivers should be instructed to employ low-friction repositioning aids in these situations.

I hope this information helps with your questions.

Stay safe,

The Lift Doctor