An agreement reached in January of this year between Beverly Enterprises and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ended 10 years of litigation centering on patient handling issues. As part of the agreement, Beverly will withdraw its contest of OSHA citations and OSHA will withdraw proposed penalties.
OSHA initially issued citations to five Pennsylvania nursing homes operated by Beverly Enterprises in response to complaints that workers were suffering back injuries related to lifting and transferring residents.
In the agreement, Beverly must acquire equipment including mechanical lifting aides, friction reducing devices, and two-handled transfer belts to aide in patient handling. Beverly must also establish a training schedule for all employees whose duties include or involve lift, transfer, or repositioning assistance, including managerial staff.
OSHA provided Beverly with a document titled, “Preferred methods for lifting and transferring residents.” This material was prepared as a guideline to help employees determine which lifting aides are appropriate for a given situation depending upon the level of patient mobility.
For instance, patients classified as total dependence patients (class 4) should be lifted and transferred with a full-sling lift device. Patients classified as supervision/limited assist (classes 1 and 2) should be assisted, when necessary, with aides such as attachments to the bed, walkers, a gait belts with handles, or sliding boards. The appropriate lifting device/assistance will be noted in each patient’s care plan. OSHA has also provided example grids to help patient handlers select the preferred lift/transfer methods for particular patients.
Going into explicit detail about mechanical lifting devices, the agreement even stipulates that a designated parking area be assigned for mobile lift assists. The equipment must be returned to the designated parking area. This model is designed to eliminate the “out of sight, out of mind” adage.
The agreement applies an immediate timeline to the five PA skilled care facilities originally cited. Within five years “non-cited” facilities owned and operated by subsidiaries of Beverly Enterprises, will adopt and implement the same provisions.
The final Stipulation and Settlement Agreement can be obtained through OSHA.
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2002-04-01.