Ergonomic Approach To Manual Handling: Lifting Techniques For Caregivers

September 7, 2016
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If you work in a health and social care setting, chances are you spend a large amount of your time moving and handling the patients and service users that you look after.

Whether you’re using specialist equipment, such as hoists and slings, or simply assisting someone to use their wheelchair or sit up in bed, it’s essential that you carry out each manual handling task with health and safety in mind.

This means taking an ergonomic approach to manual handling. In other words, it means making sure that you handle the person in a way that is comfortable and efficient for you and the service user.


What Are the Risks of Poor Moving and Handling?

If not carried out ergonomically, manual handling activities can lead to serious physical injury – to you and the person you are moving.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the most common injury caused by non-ergonomic manual handling practices. Like back pain and upper and lower limb disorders, including aches, tenderness and stiffness in the legs, hips, shoulders, neck and joints.

The person being moved may also suffer from damage to fragile skin, cuts, grazes, bruises, and injuries to the neck, shoulders and arms if they are not handled with care.


What Are the Benefits of an Ergonomic Approach to Manual Handling?

The main reason for approaching moving and handling ergonomically is to avoid physical injury. If you know how to handle people and objects safely, and can follow the correct pushing, pulling, lifting, lowering and manoeuvring practices, then it will safeguard the wellbeing of both you and the person you are moving.

Not only that, but it also ensures that the person you are moving feels safe, comfortable and at ease throughout the manual handling task. An ergonomic approach will show your patients and service users that you care about their welfare and want to maintain their dignity and comfort at all times.

carer looking after elderly man


Safe Patient Lifting Techniques

The following tips highlight the optimum, ergonomic ways to carry out manual handling of people tasks without the use of specialist equipment.

How To Lift An Elderly Person From A Chair or Bed

Moving someone from a chair or a bed uses the same technique:

  • Adopt a stable position with feet apart and one leg slightly forward to maintain your balance.
  • If lifting from a low level, squat using the back, hips and knees rather than bending over using the back only.
  • Get a good hold with your hands and arms, ideally with most of the person’s weight next to your body.
  • Put one arm under the legs and one around the shoulders if they are unable to use their legs.
  • Alternatively, pivot the person, so their legs are over the side of the bed before lifting.
  • Avoid twisting or leaning sideways, especially while the back is bent.
  • Shoulders should be kept level and facing in the same direction as the hips as the lift is carried out.

Proper Patient Lifting Technique

  • Place one arm under the legs and one around the person’s shoulder to lift them.
  • Ensure you have a good grip around the person with your arms and hands.
  • Keep the majority of the person’s weight close to your body.
  • Ask another person for assistance if the weight is more than you can safely manage.
  • Move smoothly and go no faster than walking pace so that you remain in control.
  • Keep your head up and look towards the direction you are moving.
  • Don’t allow the person to hold on around your neck with their arms as this can cause serious injury.

Patient Transfer Techniques and Pushing a Wheelchair

Moving someone from a wheelchair to a chair uses the same method:

  • When you can, you should always push rather than pull as this allows you to control steering and stopping and see where you’re going more easily.
  • Avoid uneven floors as pushing over these requires greater force and puts more strain on your body.
  • Avoid using excessive force to push the wheelchair as this can strain your neck, back and arms.
  • Keep your feet well away from the wheelchair.
  • Push the wheelchair no faster than walking pace.

Supporting a Person to Sit/Stand/Walk

  • Ensure the person has a good grip on you – and you, them – before beginning to move.
  • Don’t allow the person to grip around your neck as this can cause serious injury to you.
  • Keep the person’s weight close to your body as they manoeuvre from one place to another.
  • Use both arms or ask a colleague for assistance, so the whole weight of the person isn’t on one side of your body for too long.
  • Avoid twisting your back while supporting the person. Keep shoulders and hips facing the direction of travel.
  • If the person has a walking aid, ensure it is the right height for the user to use comfortably.

Should You Lift A Person Heavier Than You?

If someone has fallen on the floor, and they are heavier than you, you should call 999 for assistance. Trying to move someone who has fallen could lead to injury.


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