Washington’s pioneering Safe Patient Handling law is the first legislation in the United States to require hospitals to provide mechanical lift equipment for the safe lifting and movement of patients.
Washington House Bill 1672, which passed the House of Representatives 85 to 13 and the Senate 48 to 0, was signed into law by Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire (D) on March 8, 2006.
Healthcare workers continually rank among top occupations for work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Washington’s ground-breaking law provides a model for all of the states and the nation to mandate protection of nurses, nursing assistants, and other healthcare workers against injury related to manual patient lifting by the use of modern technology designed for the task.
Significantly, passage of Washington’s Safe Patient Handling law occurred during National Patient Safety Awareness Week, which was March 5-11, 2006. The new law will protect Washington patients from unintentional pain and injuries, such as skin tears, bruising, dislocations, and being dropped, which sometimes occur during attempts to lift and move patients manually.
On a timeline between February 1, 2007, and January 30, 2010, Washington hospitals must take measures including implementation of a safe patient handling policy and acquisition of their choice of either one readily available lift per acute care unit on the same floor, one lift for every ten acute care inpatient beds, or lift equipment for use by specially trained lift teams.
The new law also provides for hospital employees to refuse to perform, without fear of reprisal, patient handling or movement which the employee believes in good faith would expose a patient or employee to an unacceptable risk of injury.
Hospitals will be assisted financially with implementation of safe patient handling programs by reduced workers’ compensation premiums and tax credits covering the cost of purchasing mechanical lifting or other patient handling devices.
Learn more: www.wingusa.org, Work Injured Nurses’ Group USA