Safe patient handling

With the passage of the New York State Safe Patient Handling Act members have a uniform policy for the protection of patients and nurses in patient handling. The Act covers all hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic treatment centers and clinics licenses under NYS Public Health Law Article 28.

The Act reflects conditions in the workplace where nurses suffered increasing rates of injury as a result of patient manual handling. Increases in patient obesity, an aging workforce, and nurse staffing shortages have contributed to physical demands of nurses.

Studies have shown that the substitution of manual patient handling with mechanical equipment has positive results for patients and leads to dramatic declines in healthcare worker injury rates. In the end, employers save money by implementing these policies.

Rates of hospital worker injures are high

The Act comes at a time of extreme need. According to the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the injury rate for over-exertion in the hospital setting is twice the national average. For nursing home workers the rate is three times the national average. The worst instances of over-exertion are manual lifting, moving and repositioning of patients.

Almost half of reported injuries for nurses and support staff in the most recent BLS filings were musculoskeletal disorders – injury to limbs, neck and back. BLS studies say that 87% of nurses report lower back pain and a large percentage of these require time off or leave work altogether.

Safe patient handling programs radically reduce injury rates, have reduced workers’ compensation costs by 95% and have almost entirely eliminated lost work days tied to these conditions, according to numerous case studies.

Overview of the Act’s requirements

The Act calls for the establishment of a Task Force this fall which will implement the new law in detail.

The Act requires each covered facility to establish a safe patient handling labor-management committee by January 1, 2016. Half of committee membership must be comprised of front-line, non-managerial employees. At a minimum, one committee member must be an RN who provide direct care; another must be one non-nurse direct care provider.

Committees’ focus

The duties of these committees include the following: establish policy for pursuant to the Safe Patient Handling Act; conduct a patient handling hazard assessment; provide on-going training and education of safe patient handling; conduct incident reviews and recommend plans for corrective actions; conduct annual program performance evaluations; and consider feasibility of incorporating safe patient handling equipment when construction or remodeling is underway.

This measure is also key to the effective safe patient handling policy and procedure and is on each committee’s agenda: to develop a process by which employees may refuse to perform patient handling or movement that is reasonably believed to expose a patient or employee to the risk of injury.

For more details on the Act, see http://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/20140312i/

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