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‘Safe lifting’ legislation filed by MNA attempts to reduce injuries to health care workers

A bill entitled "An Act Relating to Safe Patient Handling in Certain Health Facilities," which would mandate safe lifting practices, was filed by the MNA on Dec. 1 at the Massachusetts Statehouse, for consideration during the coming 2005-2006 legislative session.

The nursing bill was developed by MNA’s Safe Patient Handling Task Force and Congress on Health and Safety. It was patterned after a bill which was passed this year by the California legislature but vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.

Nurses lead the categories of workers who suffer back injuries, according to statistics kept by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Estimates of the incidence of back injuries involving lost work days are 181.6 per 10,000 full-time workers in nursing homes and 90.1 per 10,000 full-time workers in hospitals. The incidence rate of musculo-skeletal disorders was estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2002 to be 8.8 per 100 staff in hospital settings and 13.5 per 100 in nursing home settings.

The MNA legislation is written to be broadly inclusive of inpatient, private and public sector acute care hospitals, rehabilitation and psychiatric facilities and nursing homes (long-term care facilities). It would not address outpatient or home care needs at this time.

    Number of work-related musculoskeletal disorders involving time away from work and median days away from work by occupation, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998.    

The act calls for facilities to develop and implement a health care worker back injury prevention plan so that manual lifting of patients is minimized in all cases and eliminated when feasible. Each health care facility will be required to conduct a needs assessment in relation to patient lifts and transfers. As part of the needs assessment, facilities will need to develop a lifting and transferring process that identifies the patients and situations that require the appropriate use of lift teams and or lifting devices and equipment, incorporated into an overall program to recognize occupational health and safety hazards and prevent injuries. The facilities’ "safe patient handling policy" will be required to apply to all shifts, and facilities will be required to provide ongoing training to health care workers on appropriate use of the lifting devices and equipment. The training will need to be provided by qualified personnel and include body mechanics and the use of lifting devices to safely handle patients.

For more information, contact Christine Pontus at 781.830.5754 or or Mary Crotty at 781.830.5743 or

For more information

The Department of Veterans Affairs Patient Safety Center site

MNA information on using patient handling equipment to reduce injuries