Senate subcommittee hears testimony on safe patient lifting

Costs related to musculoskeletal disorders among nurses could be substantially reduced through the use of safe patient lifting programs and devices, according to witnesses at a May 11 Senate subcommittee hearing.

The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee hosted a hearing on the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2009 (S. 1788).

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who introduced the legislation last year, said during the hearing that the rate of MSD injuries among nurses is 7 times the national average. Given the nursing shortage, aging workforce and the continuing U.S. obesity epidemic, Franken said it would be a "disaster" if no action is taken.

The bill would direct the secretary of labor to promulgate a standard requiring the use of engineering controls to perform lifting, transferring and repositioning of patients, and eliminating manual lifting of patients.

In other health care news, the Silver Spring, MD-based American Nurses Association hosted a luncheon for Congressional staff on the impact chemical exposure has on health care professionals and patients. The luncheon took place on the same day as the HELP Committee hearing, which fell during National Nurses Week.

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