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Patient handling

Patient handling is the top cause of injury among care workers. Care workers who move people are at significant risk of sprains and strain injuries. Physically dependent people need to be assessed, taking into account the task being performed and the space in which the work will take place. Controlling the risk involves providing appropriate mechanical equipment, and training workers on safe work procedures and use of equipment.

The risks

Many factors are related to injuries resulting from patient handling:

  • Frequency, force, and postures associated with the task
  • Design and layout of the care environment
  • Availability and use of appropriate patient handling equipment and aids
  • Patient characteristics

Reducing the risks

Employers must ensure steps are taken to reduce workers' risk of injury as much as possible when transferring people.

Before any transfer or repositioning of a person, conduct a risk assessment. Based on that assessment, choose the most effective control that is most appropriate for the person and the worker. Employers must train workers about the safe use of patient handling equipment.

This is the most effective type of control for reducing the risk of injury resulting from patient handling. Select a patient handling device that minimizes the risk of injury to workers:

  • Ceiling lift
  • Floor lift
  • Sit-stand lift

If mechanical devices are not practicable, and the person can do most of the weight-bearing themselves, consider one of the following:

  • Slider sheet
  • Transfer board
  • Bed ladder
  • Grab bar
  • Triangle trapeze handle

If mechanical devices and non-mechanical aids are not possible, consider temporarily providing care while the person remains in bed, until appropriate equipment can be obtained.