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Expect Greater Focus on Safe Patient Handling from D.C.

Scott Wallask, for HealthLeaders Media, August 14, 2009

Buying equipment and training nurses for safe patient handling costs money. But done well, such efforts can save cash through reduced sick days and workers' compensation claims.

With this in mind, it behooves CEOs to keep an eye on the regulatory horizon, because several developments point to safe patient handling becoming an increasing focus of regulators.

Some states, including Washington, Texas, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, have enacted safe patient handling laws, and several other states have pending bills.

On the national front, U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced a safety patient handling bill, numbered H.R. 2381. As of this week, the proposed legislation remained in committee.

If passed, the Conyers bill would direct the secretary of labor, likely through OSHA, to "issue an occupational safety and health standard to reduce injuries to patients, direct-care registered nurses, and all other healthcare workers by establishing a safe patient handling and injury prevention standard."

It also mandates that hospitals purchase safe lifting devices and train healthcare workers annually on how to properly lift patient and prevent injuries.

This is the third time since 2006 that Conyers has introduced a safe patient handling bill, and some stakeholders believe this latest effort will be successful because Democrats control Congress and the White House.

"We support Representative Conyers' efforts," says Anne Tan Piazza, assistant executive director of governmental affairs and operations at the Washington State Nurses Association.

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