An Exploration of Anesthesia Providers’ Workspace: Impact on Ergonomics and Safety
While many aspects of surgery are constantly updated and improved with the latest and greatest technologies, operating room (OR) ergonomics and worker safety are stuck in the dark ages. Research has shown that documented “best practices” for industrial regulations of ergonomics are often grossly neglected in the OR; these blatant disparities pose a threat to the safety of the workers.1,2 In this complex environment, at the head of the OR table, is where the anesthesia provider most often works. This workspace is often tailored to fit the surgeon’s needs and crowded with equipment, monitors, power cords, and tubing strewn about the floor. The nature of the anesthesia provider’s responsibilities does not allow ergonomics and personal safety to be prioritized. Poor ergonomic practice and harmful repetitive movements expose the worker to the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). This study was intended to gain insight into the typical anesthesia providers’ workspace and how their practice and movement are affected by this workspace. This study utilized a descriptive and observational design with a convenience sample of 22 anesthesia providers to explore the ergonomic movement of the anesthesia provider within his/her workspace as well as the safety concerns that are posed by this workspace upon the anesthesia provider. Using an observation tool, the most common non-ergonomic repetitive movements of the anesthesia providers were observed to be lateral neck rotation (mean frequency 15 times/observation) and arm(s) extension above shoulder height (mean frequency 16 times/observation). The most common non-ergonomic obstructive hazard encountered was observed to be electrical cords – the mean frequency of stepping over/on electrical cords was 17 times/observation. Safety concerns were self-reported via the questionnaire: work-related MSDs were reported in 68% of participants (most prevalent were neck and back pain) and tripping in the OR reported by 100% of participants. Participants were asked what the biggest threat to safety in the OR was and 37% mentioned “cords.” Given the high stakes work of anesthesia providers in a high-pressure environment, more ergonomic research for anesthesia providers will prompt education to minimize MSD symptoms, increase safety, and ultimately prolong careers in anesthesia practice.
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