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No Excuse for Not Protecting Nurses

July 1, 2015

No Excuse for Not Protecting Nurses

Public Citizen Report Shows That Programs to Protect Health Care Workers Quickly Pay for Themselves

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Programs that protect nurses and other caregivers from occupational hazards dramatically reduce injuries to workers and costs to providers, according to a new report (PDF) by Public Citizen.

Health care employees suffer more injuries on the job than workers in any other profession. The report, “Pay It Forward,” shows that programs aimed at protecting workers from injuries associated with moving, lifting or repositioning patients reduce injuries so much that the programs consistently pay for themselves within four years. Examples include:

  • Intermountain Healthcare, a major health care network in Utah and Idaho, saw employee injuries and patient falls decline by more than 40 percent in the first year after it implemented a comprehensive safe patient handling program in 2008. The $500,000 annual savings from the program enabled Intermountain to recoup its capital costs in about three years.
  • Tampa General, a 1,000-bed hospital, reduced injuries to its employees by more than 80 percent and workers’ compensation costs by more than 90 percent between 2001 and 2013. Even conservatively calculating savings and broadly calculating costs, this program paid for itself in less than four years.
  • A 2004 study that covered 3.7 million employee work hours in six nursing homes found that eliminating manual lifting reduced lost work days by two-thirds and cut workers’ compensation costs by nearly half. Workers’ compensation savings exceeded the program’s costs within three years.

“Hospitals should provide safe conditions for their employees simply because they have a moral and legal obligation to do so,” said Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and author of the report. “What this report shows is that protecting employees is in hospitals’ financial best interest, in addition to being the right thing to do.”

This report is the fourth in a five-part series on safe patient handling. Read the report (PDF).