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Congress Should Pass Bill to Prevent Debilitating Nursing Injuries

Dec. 17, 2015

Congress Should Pass Bill to Prevent Debilitating Nursing Injuries

Franken and Conyers Introduce Cost-Effective Legislation to Curb Patient Handling Injuries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act, introduced late Wednesday, is critical to prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among nursing employees and should become law, Public Citizen said.

The bill would direct the U.S. Department of Labor to issue standards requiring health care employers to implement safe patient handling programs in their facilities. It was introduced by U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).

MSDs are injuries to the muscles, nerves and tendons of the limbs and lower back. Nurses and other health care workers often develop MSDs – requiring time off work to recover – from lifting and moving patients manually on a regular basis. The bill’s introduction this session comes the same month as the 45th anniversary of President Richard Nixon signing the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

“This bill will provide much-needed safeguards for caregivers in the health care industry,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Nursing employees deserve safe workplaces just like all other workers.”

Earlier this year, Public Citizen released a five-part series, “Nursing: A Profession in Peril,” which documented that nursing employees injured while moving patients suffered lasting chronic pain, depression and reduced mobility. Many of these injuries have devastating and lifelong consequences, causing some workers to lose their jobs when they could no longer fulfill their lifting duties.

Safe patient handling programs reduce (PDF) these injuries by replacing manual lifting with equipment such as portable lifts and slide boards. Not only do the programs keep workers and their patients safe – they also save employers money. Part four of Public Citizen’s series reported that employers recover (PDF) expenses within approximately four years of implementation due to factors such as reduced workers’ compensation payments for manual lifting injuries.

“This legislation would provide a win-win solution to a long-standing crisis,” said Emily Gardner, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Safe patient handling programs foster healthy workplaces for employees and their patients as well as long-term savings for employers.”