Continuous assessment of low back loads in long-term care nurses
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Considerable effort has been spent evaluating aspects of low back injury risk in nursing yet comprehensive evaluation of all work tasks has been limited. The purpose of this study was to evaluate peak and cumulative lumbar spine loads experienced by personal support workers. A total of 20 female long-term care workers were observed and had trunk posture monitored via an inclinometer throughout their shift. When adjusted for an 8-h workday, workers experienced cumulative loads of 21.3 +/- 4.6 MNs, 1.8 +/- 0.6 MNs and 2.9 +/- 1.4 MNs for compression, lateral and anterior shear, respectively. Patient care, unloaded standing, walking and miscellaneous tasks accounted for almost 80% of cumulative compression, while lifts and transfers accounted for less than 10%. Mechanical lift assists reduced peak loads and contributed minimally to cumulative loading. These findings suggest that both peak and cumulative spine loads should be considered when evaluating injury risk in the nursing profession. STATEMENT OF RELEVANCE: This study has shown that tasks other than patient transfers and lifts are important in the assessment of low back injury risk in nurses. The method developed is a relatively straightforward approach that can be used to estimate peak and cumulative spine load to provide insight to risk of injury in many occupational settings.
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