Protecting caregivers from injury while safely caring for plus size patients

13% of the world’s adult population are obese1 and the repercussions of managing this pandemic are substantial and intensifying.2 The complex and challenging needs of the plus size patient are well documented, but let’s consider how this impacts the caregiver. Are they able to provide effective bariatric care as well as protect themselves from injury?


Healthcare workers in the USA3 reported one of the highest occupational injury rates in 2014, more than public construction workers. The USA is not unique in this. More than half of nursing injuries were musculo-skeletal disorders such as back, shoulder and neck injury.3 60% of caregivers injuries are related to assisting with physical repositioning in bed and transfers out of bed.4 When nursing plus size patients, more staff may potentially be required to support the repositioning of the individual.

What can be done to help?

Staff generally find ceiling lifts to be the least demanding method of patient handling and this is also the quickest transfer method.5 Patients also tend to prefer ceiling lifts to either floor lifts or manual handling.6 A purpose-designed bariatric hospital bed can aid with patient repositioning. When protective equipment is available and easy to use, it is used!

It is possible to reduce exposure to physical loads7 by selecting a repositioning sheet that is designed to replace the bed sheet and remain in situ. These are available with high safe working loads making them suitable for plus size patients.

Risk doesn’t stop at the bedside. Consider bathing and toileting facilities: can they accommodate the larger patient and reduce the physical effort required by staff?

It has been almost 25-years since Garg & Owen8 reached the following conclusion and their finding is still true today: An appropriate ergonomic intervention programme [equipment for patient care, toileting and bathing] offers great promise in reducing physical stress and risk of low-back pain to nursing personnel.”

Equipped with the right solutions, care facilities have the ability to improve the quality of life and help improve the safety of patients during manual handling procedures whilst ensuring the safety of their caregivers and efficiency of their care. With the right solutions, plus size patients can experience comfortable and dignified care – through every step of their journey.

Arjo can provide equipment solutions and educational resources for practitioners to promote best practice, demonstrating that a plus size person can be managed effectively in a suitable environment with appropriate equipment whilst maintaining their personal dignity.

Learn more about our Clinical Consultancy Services

1. World Health Organisation Fact Sheet 311 (2015): [Accessed January 2019]
2. BeitzJM. Providing Quality Skin and Wound Care for the Bariatric Patient: An Overview of Clinical. Ostomy Wound Manage. 2014; 60(1): 12–21
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work – 2014. 2015; USDL-15-2205. [Accessed June 2019]
4. McCoskey KL. Ergonomics and patient handling. AAOHN Journal, 2007; 55(11): 454‐462.
5. Alamgir H, et al (2009), Workplace Health & Safety: Promoting Environments Conducive to Well-Being and Productivity. American Association of Occupational Health Nursing, Inc. (AAOHN).  Evaluation of Ceiling Lifts in Health Care Settings Patient Outcome and Perceptions Vol 57, Issue 9, 2009
6. Dutta, T., P. J. Holliday, S. M. Gorski, M. S. Baharvandy, and G. R. Fernie. “A Biomechanical Assessment of Floor and Overhead Lifts Using One or Two Caregivers for Patient Transfers.” [In eng]. Appl Ergon 43,no. 3 (May 2012): 521-31.
7. Knibbe HJJ, Knibbe NE. Evaluation of a novel bed sheet used to reposition and transfer patients in an intensive care unit. British J Nurs. 2015; 24: 19-23
8. Garg A, Owen B. Reducing back stress to nursing personnel: an ergonomic intervention in a nursing home. Ergonomics. 1992; 35(11): 1353-1375