Workplace musculoskeletal disorders are a major burden on individuals, organisations, and the Victorian healthcare system, in part due to a lack of formal protocol around manual handling and related postural problems.

Manual handling in healthcare

Healthcare workers experience a high rate of work related musculoskeletal disorders and patient manual handling is one of the main causes of staff injuries in hospitals. Evidence has consistently shown that safe patient handling interventions and programs result in fewer and less severe injuries to healthcare workers and reduced staff sickness absence. The benefits of musculoskeletal disorder-related occupational health and safety interventions extend to patient outcomes, particularly in relation to improved pressure care, fewer skin tears, reduced length of stay, and increased patient comfort, mobility and satisfaction.

In September 2017, ISCRR conducted an evidence review to determine if there is a link between health and safety of healthcare workers and patient outcomes. The review focused on the association between worker overall health and patient outcomes, and the effect of musculoskeletal occupational health and safety programs on patient outcomes.

Download report: 'Linking worker health and safety with patient outcomes'

An environmental scan conducted in September and October 2017 aimed to identify new and emerging patient manual handling initiatives designed to prevent worker musculoskeletal disorders that impacted on patient safety. This scan comprised a desktop scan of 17 organisations, and key informant interviews with patient manual handling coordinators and/or OHS managers of 14 healthcare organisations (including public and private hospitals, and not-for-profit organisations).

Download report: 'Improvements in patient handling for worker and patient safety'

Cumulative postural exposure

Postural problems that develop because of manual handling are described as "cumulative postural exposure."

Cumulative postural exposure can be reduced simply by re-designing or changing methods of working, but there currently are no workplace protocols in place for quantifying the condition.

A research team led by Dr Peter Hillard of the Monash Injury Research Institute sought to change this through a rapid review of relevant writing.

The results of this review will be used to develop varied data collection protocols to measure cumulative postural exposure at work.