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Governor Signs Law to Save Backs and Bucks

October 13, 2011

AB 1136 will help prevent workplace injuries among RNs and other hospital workers

Sacramento, CA - Governor Brown signed landmark Safe Patient Handling legislation (AB 1136) on Oct. 7 to help slow a staggering epidemic of workplace injuries among hospital workers while  also improving patient care.

"The SEIU nurses here in California have long recognized the need for safe patient handling legislation and this was the year to finally get that accomplished," said Ingela Dahlgren, RN, Executive Director of the SEIU Nurse Alliance of California.  "Too many of our nurses and other healthcare workers have been injured on the job while moving or repositioning the patients in their care."

Due to excessive and unnecessary manual patient lifting and/or transfers, RNs and other healthcare workers experience some of the nation's highest rates of disabling neck, back, and shoulder injuries.  For more than a decade, mechanical lifting and transfer devices have proven to be remarkably effective in reducing these injuries while reducing serious patient skin tears and patients being dropped.

"There isn't a nurse that I've met who doesn't have a story of experiencing an injury while caring for a patient that took them off work either temporarily or permanently, or at the very least is dealing with chronic pain in their back, neck or shoulders," Dahlgren said. "With this important legislation, not only will our patients be provided safer care, but hospitals will have the guidelines to better protect their employees and prevent career-ending injuries."

California nurses and healthcare workers have always lead the charge for safer working conditions and patient care, whether through Nurse-to-patient ratios, safer needle legislation or Airborne Transmissible Disease Standards. And now Safe Patient Handling isn't just a hope, it's a reality.

The nation's first Safe Patient Handling law requiring the purchase of safe patient handling equipment and training programs was passed in Washington State in 2006.  As a result of the implementation of this law, a January 2011 study found that neck, back, and shoulder injuries to hospital workers caused by manual patient handling have decreased by more than one third.

California now joins Washington State and a half dozen other states where SEIU members have succeeded in passing Safe Patient Handling state laws.  SEIU is continuing to work with legislators in other states to pass more Safe Patient Handling laws while pursuing passage of a federal law.