Hi – We have addressed this issue from some different angles as we looked to develop job descriptions in our hospital with essential functions lifted. We all know that "maximum acceptable weight" gets ignored in an emercency situation such as an evacuation. We try hard to provide equipment so we can limit weights and./or train people to have more than one worker do a lift or to use equipment. But if the tornado is coming, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to say – wait here I’m getting the lift after they use it on the guy next door….. So we looked at standards for firemen and emergency personnel in our state and found that our state (Indiana) requires they be able to lift 100 pounds from the floor and demonstrate ability to manage a life size dummy weighing 150# (our fire department owns one for training and initially loaned us one – we have since purchased our own). If you can get one of those, you can use it on a sheet to measure the push/pull forces on a sheet over various surfaces with a force gauge. Overall if you look at the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, most healthcare workers have lifting of 50# listed as the physical demands.
Hope that helps you with your thinking process – never as cut and dry as the books make it seem.
If you are concerned about developing a test that meets all legal criteria and gives you guidelines so you don’t do something you shouldn’t, consider looking into a protocol such as Worksteps – they have an entire network of providers and LOTS of background to help you with this area that can become quite sticky legally – http://www.Worksteps.com
I note that C. Kelley had some good suggestions – I’d like to take them a step further. Perhaps you need to find an Occupational Therapist who specializes in ergonomics and hand problems. This person could give you ergo tips (like what is the position of your neck and shoulders while you type? I often find that people who sit at a level that is good to put their feet flat on the floor are either raising their shoulders to put arms on keyboard or are tilting their heads to see the computer screen clearly – especially if bifocals are involved). Where is your mouse? Is your elbow at your side with about a 120 degree angle from forearm to upper arm (preferable for someone with cubital tunnel). As previously mentioned, a therapist may need to work on scar tissue (were you instructed to do scar massage?) and nerve glides/neural tension stretches. Neck and shoulder stretches may help as well. Often when an extremity has been in pain, the rest of the upper quadrant has developed tension and problems due to compensations used.
I hope that helps! To find a Certified Hand Therapist, go to http://www.asht.org – then work the phone to see if you can find one who knows about ergonomics as well.
Good luck! Shirley, OTR/CHT