Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced on October 15 the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2009, which would set standards on safe patient handling and injury prevention. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Rep. Conyers (D-Mich.).
“Nurses and health care workers shouldn’t have to sacrifice their safety and their livelihood to help others,” said Sen. Franken, “especially when many of these injuries could be prevented. All of us benefit from the services these professionals provide, and by passing this legislation, we can help ensure they’re able to safely continue in their important careers.”
Every year, thousands of workers in one of our country’s most valued professions—nursing—are injured on the job. Nurses and other health care workers who suffer from musculoskeletal injuries – such as spinal disc damage and back strain – are frequently subject to a lifetime of chronic pain, and many are forced the leave the profession permanently.
Manual patient lifting is the primary cause of musculoskeletal disorders, and can be eliminated with the use of lifting equipment. Some care facilities already use such equipment, and studies have shown that its use increases both worker and patient safety, and is a cost effective investment.
Under this legislation:
- OSHA would issue a standard on safe patient handling and injury prevention that requires the use of lift equipment to move patients except in cases which would compromise patient care
- Care facilities would implement safe patient handling and injury prevention plans
- Workers would receive training on safe patient handling and injury prevention
- Workers would be protected from employer retaliation if they refused to accept assignments which do not meet safety standards
- Health and Human Services would administer a $200 million grant program to cover costs of acquiring safe patient handling equipment for eligible facilities
Not only would this legislation prevent injury among health care workers, studies show that it increases patient safety and is a cost effective investment. Facilities that have implemented safe patient handling procedures have demonstrated that their initial investment in lift equipment is off-set in just a few years by the reduced cost of worker’s compensation payments and savings from fewer lost workdays.
The Nurses and Health Care Worker Protection Act has been endorsed by over 20 organizations including the Minnesota Nurses Association, the American Nurses Association and the National Organization for Women.
Source: Coalition for Health Care Worker and Patient Safety