Better ergonomics in healthcare: three incentives for an ergonomically efficient workplace

The healthcare sector is under great pressure: only one in two healthcare providers think they have workable work. Cause: an accumulation of factors specific to the healthcare and welfare sectors. Ergonomics plays a major role in reducing physical strain, which also positively impacts mental health. These three incentives help you build a healthy ergonomic healthcare environment.

Night work, a high work rhythm, high emotional stress... These are all challenges that characterise healthcare. "The physical working conditions also demand a lot from employees," says Ruth Costers, prevention advisor for Ergonomics at Mensura. "More than one in five employees in the healthcare sector considers physical strain problematic, according to the workability monitor.”

Physical strain comprises various aspects. "One of the most important yet most complex pillars of physical strain is ergonomics. An ergonomically efficient workplace requires a multidisciplinary approach. With such an approach, you kill three birds with one stone. You limit the physical and mental strain on your employees, reduce the risk of work-related illness and increase productivity."

A healthy ergonomic healthcare environment is a sustained effort that is part of a clear healthcare vision and comprehensive health policy. Once in place, these three incentives help build an ergonomically efficient workplace:

1. The fitness of the care requester

The mobility of the patient or person in need of care is the starting point if employees have to move him or her manually. To estimate what a person can still do on their own, employees can rely on five mobility classes. A stands for fully active and E for fully passive. The mobility classes are a guideline for healthcare workers. After all, each category has its own specific devices and moving techniques. Moreover, it remains essential to stimulate the patient to exercise and to arouse self-sufficiency, of course within the limits of what is possible.

2. The necessary devices

The correct devices are essential for care requesters that do not fall under mobility class A. Not only do they enable employees to work more safely and ergonomically efficiently, but they also make the patient more comfortable.

Sliding mats and hoists are two examples of valuable devices in qualitative care provision:

  • Moving care requesters can be physically very demanding. That's why a sliding mat is a crucial device for moving a person in need of care. It reduces the required strength by an average of 40% compared to moving without a sliding mat. In combination with a slow execution, the reduction is up to 60%.
  • A hoist is necessary in the event of a reduced support function. An active hoist requires the cooperation of the care requester. If this isn't possible, then a passive hoist or ceiling lift raises the care requester. There are different types of active hoists. Depending on the care that is needed, the employee decides which one to use.

As an employer, you must provide sufficient devices where they are needed. Care workers must use them correctly according to the patient's required level of care. This requires an efficient and transparent policy. Electronic care records and up-to-date moving protocols help.

3. Correct techniques and self-sufficiency

Not only must the necessary devices be present, healthcare workers must also know the techniques for using them correctly to prevent health problems. "A workshop is helpful, provided it focuses on the exchange of experience and self-sufficiency."

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"A workshop is a good starting point for finding the least strenuous techniques and learning to apply them correctly. But care workers are also confronted with situations that are not covered in the workshop. A workshop should give healthcare workers insight into the basic principles they can use to make changes and take decisions. When they combine these skills with the right devices and the patient's mobility, the risk of ergonomic complaints drops noticeably."

You can also train trainers and reference persons. "Trainers help to develop a global prevention policy and give internal workshops. Reference persons are the pioneers who roll out the ergonomics policy in their department."

The e-learning course ‘Ergonomics for care providers’ (Dutch or French) provides insights into some basic ergonomic principles. In 3 online modules, care providers learn how to correctly apply movement techniques and recognise ergonomic risks in their care tasks.

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