by Gina Vahlas
According to the International Ergonomics Association, ergonomics, or human factors, is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.
The elements of a workplace system include facilities, management systems and the people (see Figure 1). In residential care, facilities may include overhead lifts, the design of the care home, beds, and wheelchairs. Management systems may include point of care risk assessments, care plans, hours of work, policies and procedures. People are the characteristics of people involved in the work, including caregivers, residents, families and visitors.
Figure 1: Elements and interactions of a workplace system
When the interaction of the elements is optimized for performance and human well-being, the quality of resident/client care improves, along with an improvement in safety for caregivers. Other safety goals should also be considered as part of the system of care, including pressure wound and fall prevention, infection control and violence prevention.
The Provincial Safe Resident Handling Standards for Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention in British Columbia, outline an ergonomics/human factors approach to safe handling. These standards were developed by the Provincial Residential Care Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Team with input from stakeholders and organizations, including unions, frontline workers, clinical nurse leads, and many more. They also contain gap analysis tools that an organization can use to assess their current processes, systems and practices. The standards are comprised of the following topics:
Organizational support and ongoing commitment to safety
Facility, equipment, physical environment
Education and training
Safe work practice standards
Gina is a Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist, a Certified Health and Safety Consultant and works as an Ergonomist in the Risk Analysis Unit at WorkSafeBC.
 Pousette, A., Larsman, P., Eklof, M., and Tomer, M. (2017). The relationship between patient safety climate and occupational safety climate in healthcare – A multi-level investigation. Journal of Safety Research, 61, 187-198.