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Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of mechanical patient lifts in reducing musculoskeletal symptoms, injuries, lost workday injuries, and workers' compensation costs in workers at a community hospital.
Design: Pre-post intervention study.
Setting: Three nursing units of a small community hospital.
Patients or subjects: Nursing personnel.
Interventions: Mechanical patient lifts were made available and nursing staff trained in their use between August 2000 and January 2001.
Main outcome measures: Workers completed symptom surveys at baseline and six months after lift training. Pre-intervention and post-intervention rates of injuries and lost workday injuries using Occupational Safety and Health Administration logs of the three study units, from the period July 1999 through March 2003 were analyzed. Injuries potentially related to lifting patients were included in the analyses. Using workers' compensation data from the same time period, the compensation paid ($ per full time equivalent [FTE]) due to injuries during the pre-intervention and post-intervention period was calculated.
Results: Sixty one staff members were surveyed pre-intervention; 36 (59%) completed follow up surveys. Statistically significant improvements in musculoskeletal comfort (p<0.05) were reported for all body parts, including shoulders, lower back, and knees. Injury rates decreased post-intervention, with a relative risk (RR) of 0.37 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.16 to 0.88); decreased injury rates persisted after adjustment for temporal trends in injury rates on non-intervention units of the study hospital (RR = 0.50, 95% CI 0.20 to 1.26). Adjusted lost day injury rates also decreased (RR = 0.35, 95% CI 0.10 to 1.16). Annual workers' compensation costs averaged $484 per FTE pre-intervention and $151 per FTE post-intervention.
Conclusion: Reductions were observed in injury rates, lost workday injury rates, workers' compensation costs, and musculoskeletal symptoms after deployment of mechanical patient lifts. Strengths of this study include the community hospital setting and the inclusion of a variety of different outcomes. Limitations include the pre-post study design and the small sample size.