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Ergonomics: NIOSH Lifting Limit Recommendation

Question

Greetings, Can you please send me the link that has the NIOSH recommended 35-lb. maximum weight lifting limit for healthcare workers, or can you tell me where I can find this information on the NIOSH website. Thank You!!

Ken Grachanen
CHRISTUS Health


Answer

Dear Ken:

The “Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation” provides comprehensive documentation of the methodologies utilized to calculate lifting limits for workers under various conditions. If you wish to review the equation(s), you can access them at http://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/prevguid/p0000427/p0000427.asp.

For healthcare workers, and in particular for healthcare workers who are lifting patients, the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation yields a lifting limit of approximately 35 lbs. Perhaps the best explanation for how that 35 lb. figure is derived comes from Dr. Thomas R. Waters, a research safety engineer in the Division of Applied Research and Technology at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Cincinnati, OH.

In an article that appeared in the August, 2007 issue of the American Journal of Nursing, Dr. Waters states, “the revised equation can be used to calculate a recommended weight limit for many patient-lifting activities when the following conditions are met:

  • The patient can follow directions and is not combative.

  • The amount of weight the caregiver handles can be estimated.

  • The lifting is smooth and slow.

  • The geometry of the lift -the body and hand positions in relation to the object being lifted -and the amount of weight lifted are not subject to change.
For most patient-lifting tasks, the maximum recommended weight limit is 35 lbs.-but even less when the task is performed under less than ideal circumstances, such as lifting with extended arms, lifting when near the floor, lifting when sitting or kneeling, lifting with the trunk twisted or the load off to the side of the body, lifting with one hand or in a restricted space, or lifting during a shift lasting longer than eight hours.

You can access the entire AJN article by Dr. Waters at the following link:
http://journals.lww.com/ajnonline/Fulltext/2007/08000/When_Is_It_Safe_To_Manually_Lift_A_Patient_.30.aspx

Further, 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 OSH 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.

Stay safe,
The Lift Doctor*