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Federal legislation introduced this summer seeks to reduce worker musculoskeletal injuries by creating a national standard for the safe lifting and moving of patients in health care facilities.
A lack of nationally recognized safety standards is among issues hampering U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration efforts to reduce a high rate of worker injuries in hospitals and nursing homes, experts say.
The Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2013, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., was introduced and referred to committee on June 25.
It incorporates safe patient-handling practices developed by a working group organized by the Silver Spring, Md.-based American Nurses Association, said Lori Severson, health care loss control consultant for Lockton Cos. L.L.C. in Denver.
Ms. Severson participated in the working group, as did ergonomics experts, physical therapists, patient-handling equipment manufacturers and others, the nurses association said.
They created eight core components or best practices that can be implemented across all aspects of health care. About a dozen states have adopted their own standards, but overall there is a lack of consistency in implementing patient-handling practices that reduce worker injuries, she said.
“Here is one of the leaders causing huge dollars being spent on workplace injuries, and there are no occupational safety standards addressing it,” Ms. Severson said.
But incorporating such standards into law could give OSHA inspectors the ability to review health care companies' implementation of the practices.
Health care facilities are increasingly drawing attention for their unique exposures, which drive more worker injuries than occur in either manufacturing or construction operations.