An evaluation of patient lifting techniques

Ergonomics. 1994 May;37(5):921-32. doi: 10.1080/00140139408963701.


In the present laboratory study five two-person manual lifting techniques were evaluated as to the amount of physical exertion required of the nurses. Ten female volunteers served as nurses; two healthy volunteers (weight: 55 kg and 75 kg) served as passive patients. The working postures and motions were recorded on videotape. The data thus obtained were used in a anatomical-biomechanical analysis. The perceived exertion by the nurses was measured as well. In almost all situations the compressive forces on the nurse's spine exceeded their acceptable limit of 3425 N. Differences between the lifting techniques were most obvious when the 55 kg patient was lifted. Ratings of the perceived exertion (RPE scores) were higher in symmetrical handling than in asymmetrical handling. The three techniques using asymmetrical hand positions produced less subjective stress. RPE scores and rotation of the back were negatively correlated. Rotating the back when moving a patient from one side to the other seems to ease the task. On the whole, the results of the biomechanical evaluation are in line with the subjective perception of the nurses. In both instances the barrow lift appeared to be the most strenuous one; the Australian lift resulted in low compressive forces and a moderate level of perceived exertion.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lifting*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Care / methods*
  • Posture / physiology