Proposed legislation moves to reduce on-the-job injuries for nurses

A new bill sponsored by two Democratic members of Congress aims to reduce the number of on-the-job injuries for nurses. The Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act orders hospitals and healthcare institutions to overhaul their procedures for lifting and transferring patients in order to reduce the most common and debilitating types of injuries for nurses and other healthcare professionals. 

"Every day, nurses, nursing assistants, and other healthcare workers suffer injuries due to the strain of manually lifting their patients," Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), co-sponsor of the bill, wrote in an opinion piece for the Huffington Post . "The damage to these caregivers' backs, necks, arms, shoulders, and hips--medically referred to as musculoskeletal disorders--drives them from the jobs they love and changes the course of their lives."

In July, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration issued a memo to all staff that the agency would be doubling down in the months ahead on its mandates to healthcare institutions aimed at reducing workplace injuries for nurses and other clinicians. The agency followed up by threatening noncompliant institutions with fines of up to $70,000. 

Some safety experts support the bill but with reservations. For example, safety expert Steve Wilder wrote in Long-Term Living, that if the bill requires hospitals to purchase assistive devices, many hospitals with already strained finances may find themselves in a difficult position.

Lifting-related injuries represent an "unacceptable risk" in light of current expertise and technology, American Nurses Association President Pamela F. Cipriano, Ph.D, said in a statement. "This bill signals that workers are not expendable and injuries are not tolerable as just 'part of the job.' It is a much needed step in the right direction to implementing safer programs that will help to save and extend the careers of thousands of registered nurses," she said

To learn more:
- read the bill
- here's Conyers' opinion piece
- read Wilder's column
- read the statement