The American Industrial Hygiene Association® (AIHA) recently provided comments to Hon. John Conyers Jr. on HR 2381, “Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2009,” a bill amending the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. This legislation is being co-sponsored by Hon. Lynn C. Woolsey.

“AIHA has a significant number of members who are employed by or provide services to the health care industry,” said AIHA President Cathy L. Cole, CIH, CSP. “The need to identify and apply methods to improve safe patient handling programs has been a recognized need … progressive, proactive health care providers have achieved significant reductions in worker injuries and their related costs as a result of implementing effective and safe patient handling programs. Sadly, a high percentage of health care facilities have not yet decided to implement these programs.”

Introduction of HR 2381 is a method to ensure that the safe patient handling issue is properly addressed. AIHA recently developed and adopted a position statement entitled “Safe Handling of Patients and Residents.” The AIHA position statement is essentially in full accord with HR 2381 with the following two exceptions:

  • The scope of the legislation should be limited to workers in health care facilities at this time and not apply to health care workers in the home environment. While AIHA recognizes (as is evidenced in the position statement) that home health care workers are also exposed to significant ergonomic risk, equipment, and other control approaches are not currently available to adequately reduce all of these exposures. Research should be funded and other efforts undertaken to fill this knowledge gap.
  • The time allowed to send safe patient handling incident reports to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should be extended from one business day after request receipt to fifteen business days. The latter figure would be consistent with the requirement under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1020, Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records.