2009 News

Joint Committee on Public Health to Hold June 23 Hearing on "Safe Patient Handling" Bill


Aims to protect nurses and nurse’s aides from work-related injuries that result from unsafe, patient-lifting practices; testifiers will include MNA President Beth Piknick, who suffered a debilitating work-related back injury

What:   The Joint Committee on Public Health will hold a hearing on June, 23 for a bill filed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) that would require hospitals to provide a system to assist nurses and other staff with patient handling, a measure that would prevent thousands of preventable injuries and save the system millions in lost work days and workmen’s comp claims.

Recent studies show that nursing is the profession most associated with work-related muscular skeletal injuries and that nearly 12 out of every 100 hospital-based nurses and nurse’s aides and 17 out of every 100 of those in nursing homes report work-related injuries (particularly back injuries), which is double the rate for all other industries combined.  One-third of these nurses also reported that their injuries were directly connected to moving/lifting patients. Research has shown repeatedly that there is no such thing as a safe manual patient lift, regardless of the technique used. Disabling musculoskeletal injuries to the back, neck, shoulder, etc, caused by lifting patients and residents are not “accidents.” Such injuries are the predictable result of health care workers, 95% women, being required to lift hazardous amounts of weight which are not tolerated to be manually lifted in many other male-dominated blue-collar industries. When other categories of workers have had high numbers of these types of injuries, OSHA and NIOSH would step in and set limits on the amount of weight a worker could safely lift.  Currently, the recommended amount of weight a worker should lift is limited to 35 pounds.  Every day in Massachusetts, nurses and nurse’s aides are expected to move 200 – 300 pound patients several times a day with no assistance.  Instituting a policy specific to this problem is the key to protecting nurses and to reducing the system-wide costs that are spent on treating nurses who are debilitated by otherwise preventable muscular skeletal injuries. 

An Act Relating to Safe Patient Handling (HB2026/SB803) is sponsored by Sen. Harriett Chandler (D Worcester) and Rep. Jennifer Callahan (D-Sutton), who is also an RN and a long-time advocate of patients and nurses.  Four states including New York, Ohio, Texas and California have enacted similar legislation in the past two years.  This session, six other states have filed legislation. Among those testifying will be the MNA’s president Beth Piknick, herself a victim of a debilitating back injury. Piknick has led the MNA’s efforts to address this issue in order to protect nurses throughout the state.

Who: Testifying at the hearing will be specialists/experts in occupational health and safety, including:  Beth Piknick, RN and MNA president; along with other injured workers. 

When: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 10 a.m.

Where: State House, Room A 2

Contact: Charles Rasmussen at 781.363.0748 or David Schildmeier at 781.249.0430