Way back in 1994, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released what is today described as the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation—an ergonomics assessment tool that can be used to calculate the recommended weight limit for two-handed manual-lifting tasks. However, at that time NIOSH did not include patient-handling tasks in the revised equation, arguing that such tasks involve too many variables. Nevertheless, Dr. Tom Waters, a research safety engineer in the NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology, has kindly interpreted the equation to apply to modern-day healthcare lifting tasks.
Dr. Waters states that “the equation in fact can be used to calculate a recommended weight limit for a limited range of patient-handling tasks in which the patient is cooperative and unlikely to move suddenly during the task. In general, the revised equation yields a recommended 35-lb. maximum weight limit for use in patient-handling tasks. When weight to be lifted exceeds this limit, assistive devices should be used.”
If a job description requires lifting in excess of 35 lbs., then the OSHA General Duty clause should be consulted, which states that OSHA may cite employers for ergonomic hazards. Under the OSHA Act's General Duty Clause, employers “must keep their workplaces free from recognized serious hazards, including ergonomic hazards. This requirement exists whether or not there are voluntary guidelines.”
We hope this answers your question.
The Lift Doctor*