As our population gets older and heavier, healthcare workers are having to lift more and heavier loads as they transfer and position patients. The increased physical demands have translated into alarming rates of musculoskeletal disorders. NIOSH reports:

Direct and indirect costs associated with back injuries in the healthcare industry are estimated to be $20 billion annually. Additionally, nursing aides and orderlies suffer the highest prevalence (18.8%) and report the most annual cases (269,000) of work-related back pain among female workers in the United States. In 2000, 10,983 registered nurses (RNs) suffered lost-time work injuries due to lifting patients. Twelve percent of nurses report that they left the nursing profession because of back pain.

The agency describes some of the research it has done to identify and develop safer patient-handling practices. Using equipment to help move patients appears to reduce worker injuries and lost time, and improved education and training will also be important.

In other news:

New York Times: OSHA has announced nearly three dozen citations against three companies involved in the March collapse of a construction crane in Manhattan. Problems with the nylon slings used to lift crane components were factors in the collapse, and could have been noticed and addressed if proper inspections had been conducted.

Las Vegas Sun: Federal OSHA told Nevada OSHA that it found irregularities in the state agency’s conduct in the investigation and citations that followed the deaths of two workers; the state agency has said it will not comply with the federal request to consider policy changes.  

News Tribune (Tacoma, Washington): Prison supervisors made inmates do renovation work that exposed them to asbestos, and failed to take standard precautions even after inmates expressed concern.

White Coat Notes/Boston Globe: Ted Johnson, a former player with the NFL’s New England Patriots, has agreed to let a Boston research program study his brain after he dies as part of an effort to understand the brain degeneration players suffer after head injuries.

Bloomberg: Some employers have concluded they can save healthcare money in the long run if they send their employees (and their family members) to the best hospitals for treatment, even if it means paying to send them to other states.