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Safe Handling: Should Your Facility Implement a ‘No-Lift’ Policy?

Written by: Michael Fragala, PhD, MBA, RN, WCC, CSPHP, AMS

Ensuring safe patient handling is essential in any healthcare setting as it helps to prevent injuries to both patients and the staff caring for them. “Safe handling” refers to an approach by which clinical providers move and handle patients in a way that prevents injury to both their patients and the provider themselves.

An emerging approach to safe handling is ‘no-lift’ policies, which aim to reduce or even eliminate the manual lifting of patients. This approach safeguards healthcare workers from injuries and ensures that high-risk patient transfers are not attempted. ‘No-lift’ policies offer healthcare leaders a potential tool to significantly reduce manual lifting and the risks that accompany it, ultimately improving safety for their patients and their staff.

Understanding Safe Patient Handling Approaches

There are two main approaches to safe patient handling. Most healthcare facilities use a combination of both techniques:

  • Manual patient lifting – This method relies entirely on the physical strength and lifting techniques of healthcare staff. This approach poses a high degree of risk for strains and injuries among workers. It also is prone to failure, risking falls, discomfort, or injury for patients.
  • Mechanical patient lifting – This method involves using mechanical equipment to assist in moving or handling patients. This method significantly reduces the physical strain on healthcare professionals while simultaneously providing a greater degree of consistency and lower risk of failure for patients. While generally safer, this method involves a higher initial cost and staff training to be effective.

Clarifying ‘No-Lift’ Policy in Healthcare

A ‘no-lift’ policy in healthcare is a strategy aimed at minimizing manual lifting as much as possible. It does not necessarily involve eliminating it entirely but does promote the use of mechanical lifting instead of manual lifting to the greatest extent possible.

While the term ‘no-lift’ seems to imply no manual lifting should ever occur, this is often impractical. Often the term ‘no-lift’ and ‘minimal lift’ are used synonymously, advocating for the use of mechanical aids for safe handling whenever feasible. This approach couples the safety of healthcare providers and patients with the realities of day-to-day operations they face each day.

The Importance of a ‘No-Lift’ Policy in Healthcare

Implementation of a ‘no-lift’ policy provides tremendous benefits for healthcare facilities. It promotes worker safety, reducing the risk of injuries and associated costs. It also enhances patient comfort and dignity during transfers, helping to provide a consistent transfer experience while reducing their risks of injury. Numerous studies validate the positive impact of a ‘no-lift’ policy, demonstrating decreased rates of work-related injuries and a reduction in workers’ compensation claims.

Implementing a ‘No-Lift’ Policy in Healthcare: Steps and Strategies

There are several important steps to implementing a ‘no-lift’ policy in a way that ensures widespread adoption of the new approach:

  1. Conducting an initial assessment to understand the current practices and equipment in use.
  2. Investing in high-quality safe patient-handling equipment that caters to your facility’s unique needs.
  3. Educating healthcare staff about the ‘no-lift’ policy, its benefits, and proper use of mechanical lifting equipment.
  4. Performing ongoing monitoring and adjustment of the implementation of the new policy as necessary.

The two pillars of success when implementing a ‘no-lift’ policy are obtaining the right equipment, making manual lift frequency reduction practical, and educating staff on the benefits and purpose of the new safe handling policy, improving their overall adherence.

Overcoming Challenges in the Implementation of a ‘No-Lift’ Policy in Healthcare

Despite its advantages, implementing a ‘no-lift’ policy may generate resistance due to inertia and resistance to change present in most healthcare settings. A key to overcoming this inertia is to foster staff buy-in through continuous education and demonstration of the policy’s benefits. Addressing concerns and providing hands-on training on equipment use can significantly facilitate the transition.


Safe handling is more than just a part of providing healthcare; it’s a commitment to the safety and well-being of both patients and healthcare workers. A ‘no-lift’ policy embodies this commitment by prioritizing mechanical aids over minimal manual lifting, reducing the overall risks patients and providers face.

Joerns is committed to helping healthcare facilities ensure the safety and well-being of their patients and staff. Partnering with an experienced organization like Joerns can be invaluable, helping you train your staff effectively and equipping them for success. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help ensure the safety of your patients and team members.

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