In May, Democratic United States Representative John Conyers, Jr., who represents Michigan’s 14th District, introduced national legislation for the third time that calls for the safe handling of dependent patients and residents throughout the healthcare system. The broad-based Coalition for Healthcare Worker and Patient Safety (CHAPS) formed in June to support the bill.
HR 2381, The Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2009, directs the Secretary of Labor to issue an occupational safety and health standard to reduce injuries to patients, direct-care registered nurses, and all other healthcare workers “by establishing a safe patient handling and injury prevention standard, and for other purposes.”
The standard specifies “the use of engineering controls to perform lifting, transferring, and repositioning of patients and the elimination of manual lifting of patients” by direct-care registered nurses and all other healthcare workers, “through the use of mechanical devices to the greatest degree feasible except where the use of safe patient handling practices can be demonstrated to compromise patient care.” The bill, at present in committee, states that the standard will apply to all healthcare employers.
CHAPS formed up under the leadership of Marsha Medlin, RN, to keep the bill on track. The organization brings together occupational health and safety professionals – the Work Injured Nurses’ Group USA (WING USA), National Network of Career Nursing Assistants (NNCNA), United American Nurses (UAN, AFL-CIO), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), among others – labor unions representing healthcare workers, workers’ compensation carriers, patient lift equipment companies and other organizations and individuals concerned with patient and healthcare worker safety.
A WING USA news release notes that “safe lift and transfer equipment would allow many nurses, nurse assistants, and other healthcare workers to escape from working with chronic back pain, and from the devastating injuries, lifetime disabilities, and loss of career caused by manual patient lifting.” The organization also notes that eliminating manual lifting would also protect patients and residents against pain and injuries caused by manual lifting such as bruising, abrasions, skin tears, tube dislodgement, dislocations and being dropped.
Sources: Rep. John Conyers; Govtrack.usp; WING