Safer Lifting

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Safer Lifting

California takes the lead to prevent patient handling injuries

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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Nurses endure more work-related musculoskeletal injuries than truck drivers or even construction workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half of all occupational musculoskeletal disorders suffered by healthcare workers in 2012 resulted from lifting or moving patients. California’s healthcare workforce leads the nation in musculoskeletal injuries. Now, the state is taking action.

New Safety Regulations

In 2011, Gov. Brown signed the Hospital Patient and Health Care Worker Injury Protection Act (AB 1136), which is intended to reduce hospital workers’ risk of lifting-related injuries. The law has been in effect since January 2012, but it wasn’t until this summer that the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) issued its final regulations, which took effect on October 1.

Acute care hospitals in California are already required to have injury and illness prevention programs. The new regulations require hospitals to add safe patient handling policies to those programs, including appropriate training for nurses in the best lifting procedures for different emergency and nonemergency situations.

Under the new rules, hospitals are required to designate trained “lift teams” who can move patients as needed and add powered patient handling equipment. Hospitals are expected to solicit the staff’s suggestions and concerns when making changes to the policy, which must be updated at least once a year.

Nurses, It’s Your Call

Perhaps the most important point for nurses is that the regulations and the law place ultimate responsibility for safe lifting procedures on “the professional judgment and clinical assessment of the registered nurse.”

Cal/OSHA and the state Labor Code now protect you from disciplinary action or reprisal if you express concerns about the safety or appropriateness of patient handling procedures or if you refuse to lift or move a patient because you don’t think you can do so safely. 

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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