The Importance of Safe Patient Handling to Create a Culture of Safety: An Evidential Review

Rob Humrickhouse*, 1, Hanneke J.J. Knibbe2
1 Healthcare Consulting Services, 40 West Schiller St., Chicago, IL 60610, USA
2 LOCOmotion, Research in Healthcare, Brinkerpad 29, 6721WJ Bennekom, The Netherlands

Article Metrics

CrossRef Citations:
Total Statistics:

Full-Text HTML Views: 4114
Abstract HTML Views: 1812
PDF Downloads: 443
ePub Downloads: 224
Total Views/Downloads: 6593
Unique Statistics:

Full-Text HTML Views: 1825
Abstract HTML Views: 940
PDF Downloads: 350
ePub Downloads: 174
Total Views/Downloads: 3289

© Humrickhouse and Knibbe; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Principal, Healthcare Consulting Services, 40 West Schiller St., Chicago, IL 60610, USA; Tel/Fax: 773-550-2499; E-mail:


Manual patient handling has been linked to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in healthcare workers. It can expose the musculoskeletal (MS) system of nurses and other healthcare workers to stress, and may put patients at risk for injury, pain and negative health outcomes. Creating a culture of safety around minimising manual patient handling is therefore thought to have a positive impact in diminishing the scope of this problem. Patient mobility is also an important clinical issue, and safe patient handling (SPH) and mobility technology can be used to promote mobilisation, to improve patient independence and quality of life.

There is evidence to suggest that multifactor interventions based on a risk assessment programme have the most likely chance of success in reducing risk factors associated with patient handling activities. The introduction of a structured SPH programme that pairs training with ergonomic intervention and mechanical aid use is now believed to be the most effective workplace intervention to prevent injuries relating to manual patient handling. The aim of this review is to investigate available evidence for the effectiveness of SPH programmes from the perspectives of healthcare worker safety, patient safety and cost. It is hoped that this will provide a broad view on the current state, significance and future potential of such programmes. Further, we consider what is missing from the available evidence, and how we can improve our understanding of SPH programme effectiveness in the healthcare setting.

Keywords: Back pain, Cultural change, Ergonomics, Musculoskeletal disorder, Occupational health, Safe patient handling, Safety, Training.