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Tips for preventing musculoskeletal injuries in the OR


Theatre Safety Education from Elite Medical

In the US, the healthcare industry now suffers more reported injuries than the construction sector! And in Australia, the Health and Community Services sector has the highest incidence of workplace injury compensation claims – more than half of which were for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (also known as WMSDs).

At Elite Medical we’ve listened to the concerns of healthcare professionals, and responded by supplying products that aim to reduce and prevent musculoskeletal disorders. We’re also committed to theatre safety education and helping OR workers understand and prevent WMSDs.

In this article, we take a look at the causes of musculoskeletal disorders, and what can be done to prevent WMSDs in your workplace.

What are musculoskeletal disorders?

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders, or WMSDs, is the blanket term for many painful disorders affecting the muscles, tendons, and nerves. Overuse of these parts of the musculoskeletal system – for example, while working in the OR – can gradually cause WMSDs.

Common examples of musculoskeletal disorders include sprains and strains of muscles, ligaments and tendons; back injuries; joint and bone injuries or degeneration; nerve injuries or compression (such as carpal tunnel syndrome); and chronic pain.

What causes musculoskeletal disorders in health care workers?

Frequent and repetitive work activities, or activities involving awkward postures, are common in the Operating Room – and it’s these types of movements which contribute to WMSDs.

Repeated or continuous use of the same body parts (including static body positions, such as standing for long periods) can cause gradual wear and tear to the joints, ligaments, muscles and inter-vertebral discs over time.

Sudden musculoskeletal damage can also be caused by strenuous activity or unexpected movements, such as when a patient being moved changes position suddenly.

Of course, almost all OR work requires the use of the arms and hands, which means WMSDs can commonly affect the hands, wrists, elbows, neck, and shoulders. Health care workers can also be vulnerable to WMSDs of the back, legs, hips, ankles, or feet.

A combination of these situations can also cause injuries; for example if body tissue has been weakened by cumulative damage, it may be more vulnerable to sudden injury by lower forces.

Preventing musculoskeletal disorders in health care workers

Even though musculoskeletal disorders can be very serious – and very common – there are some strategies you can put in place to help reduce the severity of WMSDs, and avoid them altogether.

1. Slide, don’t lift

Because back injuries can easily occur when lifting a patient between a bed and gurney, it’s important for health care workers to take care and use smart strategies to avoid musculoskeletal injuries. Using a ‘No Lift’ lateral transfer device like our Z-Slider can help. Thanks to reduced friction, it allows straightforward sliding of patients between surfaces with minimal risk of back injury – and it’s also easy to use.

2. Step up to the right height

Continual bending over or reaching while working in the Operating Room is a common cause of neck and shoulder musculoskeletal injuries. Instead, try to adjust your working position to a level between waist and shoulder height, and avoid twisting or bending by positioning your work directly in front of you.

It’s also important to be able to comfortably reach items stored above you, by safely increasing your height. The Ergo-StepTM Stool is a lightweight, stackable step stool that can help give OR staff extra height with safety.

3. Use anti-fatigue techniques and equipment

Standing in the same location for an extended period of time, such as when working in the OR, can result in muscle fatigue, causing pain in the feet, legs, and lower back.

To avoid this, take regular breaks from standing, and stretch your muscles regularly to increase blood flow. You can also use anti-fatigue mats such as our Ergo-Stand EZ & ErgoPlus, which allow the muscles to subtly contract and expand as they adjust to the mat’s flexibility, helping to increase blood flow and oxygen reaching the heart. They’re a comfortable way to avoid both short term fatigue and long-term injuries.

4. Remove tripping & slipping hazards in the OR

Almost one in five healthcare workplace injury claims are for slips, trips and falls. So it’s important to reduce this risk by keeping the operating room floor as dry as possible and eliminating tripping hazards.

Sheets and/or towels are often used to absorb fluids in the operating room. However, these makeshift solutions can cause cross contamination and increase the risk of tripping. A better alternative is our absorbent DriFloor pads, which are designed to keep the OR floor as dry as possible, especially for high volume fluid loss procedures.

Uncovered cords, tubes and wires on the operating room floor can create an obvious tripping hazard. The solution is to secure and cover these hazards with single-use adhesive strips, such as our Trip-No-More cord/wire covers. Easy to apply and remove, they keep vital tubes, wires, and cords firmly in place, and don’t leave residue behind.

Compared to conventional sticky tape, Trip-No-More cord/wire covers offer many advantages. Cleverly designed with side adhesive strips and a non-adhesive centre, they’re easily repositioned during operations if needed. They’re available in multiple lengths or as a roll, allowing you to easily access the required length. And their bright orange colour gives a clear visual indication of potential hazards.

Secure your operating room against musculoskeletal disorders

With our purpose-designed anti WMD products, you can ensure your operating room is better prepared to guard against musculoskeletal disorders for your staff. To find out more, call the Elite Medical team of consultants today on 1800 354 836.

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