Nurses in New York face a number of work hazards that occur at higher rates than workers in other industries typically experience. The number one on-the-job threat to nurses’ well-being, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, is overexertion.

In the BLS study, 45.6% of the nonfatal nursing injury cases in 2016 were due to overexertion, primarily from these causes:

  • Excessive physical effort
  • Twisting, bending and lifting
  • Repetitive motions

The nature of the injuries from all sources were strains, tears and sprains, and the back was the part of the body most often injured in cases where workers had to take time off to recover. The age group between 25 and 34 years had the most incidents of overexertion and bodily reaction injuries.

What can employers do to lessen the risk of these injuries? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some researchers believe the principles of ergonomics provide the answer. Ergonomics involves developing work task methods that allow workers to perform the job within their physical capabilities. When it comes to patient-handling techniques, ergonomics typically involves using safety procedures and equipment.

There is an equation for determining the amount of weight a person can safely lift without harming the back. However, although it may work well when referring to objects, researchers warn that lifting humans requires different techniques, and the lifting methods require different weight limits. Even using an adjusted method for determining patient-handling techniques, the equation requires that the patient cooperate and remain still during the movement.

Ultimately, safety experts believe the only way to protect nurses from overexertion injuries is to eliminate circumstances where a patient must be lifted manually.