Sunday, May 07, 2006

Safe Lifting Laws Make Progress

Anne Hudson, Director of the Work Injured Nurses' Group (WING USA) sends out regular updates of state legislative efforts to pass laws that "halt needless injuries to nursing staff, patients, and residents from hazardous manual patient lifting." In addition to recent laws passed in Texas and Washington state, Anne adds:
Massachusetts legislation for safe patient handling was introduced in 2004 and continues in the Massachusetts Legislature. California legislation for safe patient handling, vetoed twice by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 and 2005, has been introduced for the third time, in January and February 2006, into the California Senate and Assembly. Rhode Island and Florida each introduced safe patient handling legislation in February 2006 into both the House and the Senate. New Jersey introduced safe patient handling legislation in March 2006.

Importantly, the safe patient handling laws enacted by both Texas and Washington provide for healthcare workers to refuse to perform patient lifting or movement activities, without fear of reprisal, if they believe in good faith that the activity would expose the healthcare worker or patient to an unacceptable risk of injury. This protection is also included in legislation introduced by several other states.
Check out Anne's site as well: and get on her mailing list.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has just issued a new publication, Safe Lifting and Movement of Nursing Home Residents, which seems much easier to understand and use than OSHA's nursing home guidelines. For one thing, the NIOSH publication actually describes the scope of the problem, something OSHA refused to do in its guidelines:
These conditions contributed to the 211,000 occupational injuries suffered by caregivers in 2003 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2003). Because of the rapidly expanding elderly population in the U.S., employment for nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants is projected to increase by 25% between 2002 and 2012, adding an estimated 343,000 jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). Due to the ongoing demand for skilled care services, musculoskeletal injuries to the back, shoulder, and upper extremities of caregivers are expected to increase.
NIOSH also describes the current scientific literature on the causation of back and other musculoskeletal injuries, whereas OSHA offer only this statement:
More remains to be learned about the relationship between workplace activities and the development of MSDs.