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Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants

ISSN Print: 1050-6934
ISSN Online: 1940-4379

Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants

DOI: 10.1615/JLongTermEffMedImplants.v15.i5.80
pages 559-566

Texas Passes First Law for Safe Patient Handling in America: Landmark Legislation Protects Healthcare Workers and Patients from Injury Related to Manual Patient Lifting

Mary Anne Hudson
Public Health Nurse, Coos County Public Health Department, 1975 McPherson St. #, North Bend, Oregon, OR 97459, USA

ABSTRACT

On June 17,2005, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) signed into law Senate Bill 1525, making Texas the first state in the nation to require hospitals and nursing homes to implement safe patient handling and movement programs. Governor Perry is to be commended for this heroic first stand for safe patient handling in America. The landmark legislation will take effect January 1, 2006, requiring the establishment of policy to identify, assess, and develop methods of controlling the risk of injury to patients and nurses associated with lifting, transferring, repositioning, and movement of patients; evaluation of alternative methods from manual lifting to reduce the risk of injury from patient lifting, including equipment and patient care environment; restricting, to the extent feasible with existing equipment, manual handling of all or most of a patient's weight to emergency, life-threatening, or exceptional circumstances; and provision for refusal to perform patient handling tasks believed to involve unacceptable risks of injury to a patient or nurse.
Manually lifting patients has been called deplorable, inefficient, dangerous to nurses, and painful and brutal to patients; manual lifting can cause needless suffering and injury to patients, with dangers including pain, bruising, skin tears, abrasions, tube dislodgement, dislocations, fractures, and being dropped by nursing staff during attempts to manually lift. Use of safe, secure, mechanical lift equipment and gentle friction-reducing devices for patient maneuvering tasks could eliminate such needless brutality.
Research has proven that manual patient lifting is extremely hazardous to healthcare workers, creating substantial risk of low-back injury, whether with one or two patient handlers. Studies on the use of mechanical patient lift equipment, by either nursing staff or lift teams, have proven repeatedly that most nursing staff back injury is preventable, leading to substantial savings to employers on medical and compensation costs.
Because the healthcare industry has relied on people to do the work of machines, nursing work remains the most dangerous occupation for disabling back injury. Back injury from patient lifting may be the single largest contributor to the nursing shortage, with perhaps 12% of nurses leaving or being terminated because of back injury. The US healthcare industry has not kept pace with other industries, which provide mechanical lift equipment for lifting loads equivalent to the weight of patients, or with other countries, such as Australia and England, which are more advanced in their use of modern technology for patient lifting and with “no-lifting” practices in compliance with government regulations and nursing policies banning manual lifting.
With Texas being the first state to succeed in passing legislation for safe patient handling, other states are working toward legislative protection against injury with manual patient lifting. California re-introduced safe patient handling legislation on February 17, 2005, with CA SB 363, “Hospitals: Lift Teams,” following the September 22, 2004, veto of CA AB 2532 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said he believes existing statutory protection and workplace safety standards are sufficient to protect health care workers from injury. Massachusetts HB 2662, “Relating to Safe Patient Handling in Certain Health Facilities,” was introduced December 1, 2004. Ohio HB 67, signed March 21, 2005 by Governor Bob Taft (R), creates a program for interest-free loans to nursing homes for implementation of a no-manual-lift program. New York companion bills AB 7641 and SB 4029 were introduced in April, 2005, calling for creation of a 2-year study to establish safe patient handling programs and collect data on nursing staff and patient injury with manual patient handling versus lift equipment, to determine best practices for improving health and safety of healthcare workers and patients during patient handling. Washington State is planning re-introduction of safe patient handling legislation, after WA HB 1672, “Relating to reducing injuries among patients and health care workers,” was stalled in committee in February, 2005. Language from these state initiatives may be used as models to assist other states with drafting safe patient handling legislation. Rapid enactment of a federal mandate for “Safe Patient Handling—No Manual Lift” is essential and anticipated.