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Keep Your PT Clinic Within OSHA Compliance

The primary concern for any clinic is the safety of all patients, therapists, and employees. By adhering to OSHA regulations, you can minimize the risk of injuries to everyone.

Employee Safety Concerns

More than 20 percent of PTs in the United States suffer from musculoskeletal disorders caused by constant lifting of and reaching for patients during treatment. 

Not only are long-term injuries a risk, it's important to remember that an employee who sustains any injury while on the job could result in a potential workers’ compensation exposure for your business. So, as an employer, ensuring your employees’ safety is an important risk mitigation strategy. 

OSHA’s hazards list for physical therapy establishments highlight proper lifting techniques to minimize therapists’ injuries on the job:

  • Take time to stop and think (evaluate the lift).
  • Bend your knees, use arm and leg muscles, and keep your back straight.
  • Use smooth and steady lifting motions.
  • Avoid lifting/reaching or working above shoulder height.
  • Avoid awkward postures, such as twisting while lifting.
  • Lift items close to the body.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time (take a break).
  • Provide sufficient staff to handle lifts (e.g., get help).
  • Use mechanical aids to reduce the need to lift patients. Some examples include the use of:
    • Mechanical lift equipment – Use when lifting patients who cannot support their own weight into/out of whirlpools or tubs.
       
    • Sliding Boards – A slick board used under patients to help reduce friction during transfers (e.g., to and from wheelchairs and treatment tables).
  • Use adjustable equipment such as tubs and therapy tables. Therapists can then adjust the equipment to fit their own height and comfort levels.


Patient Safety Concerns

As a physical therapy provider, it’s equally important that your staff is educated to effectively monitor and ensure the safety of their patients (even those who are waiting in a waiting room, or moving through your facility to a treatment area). It is a potential liability exposure for your practice should a patient sustain a new injury while in your care.

Patients who are already injured or recovering from surgery are especially vulnerable to slips, trips, and falls within your facility. It is important to carefully watch patients throughout their visit to your practice; this gives your therapists the opportunity to identify potential risks, to notice if patients are too weak to continue their exercises, and so on.

Carefully plan the layout of your facility to ensure that patients who already are in a fragile state can move about and navigate easily. All equipment and furniture should be placed not only in convenient areas but in areas that will not cause trips or falls.

OSHA regulations state that use of color codes, posters, labels, or signs need to be visible to warn patients and employees of potential hazards. There should be no shortage of signage in your facility.

All exercise equipment should clearly display instructions for use. Many types of equipment come with adhesive labels featuring instructions when purchased; however, if a label is missing from a piece of equipment, create your own and post it beside the equipment in a clearly visible location.

If your practice has a whirlpool or ice bathing accommodations, it is important to wipe up a spill immediately. There should be grab bars for easy support, and the area(s) should include non-slip rugs.

Make Sure You're Covered!

In addition to safe practices at your clinic, make sure you are covered on all fronts with the proper insurance policies. Contact PT1 Insurance Solutions if you have any questions regarding risk and your practice. Call us at 877-536-7082 or email us at info@pt1insurance.com

 

Sources:

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/hospital/clinical/pt/pt.html#45

https://www.osha.gov/law-regs.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18276935/

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