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Back injury claimsdrop with no-lift law
Mandate, incentives spur change in WA
The carrot and the stick have worked in Washington state to reduce the number and severity of safe patient handling injuries.
A 2006 state law requires hospitals to establish a safe patient handling program and to purchase lift equipment – and it established a $10 million fund for tax credits to help hospitals pay for the equipment. From 2006 to 2010, the lost-time workers compensation claims rates for back injuries related to patient handling declined by about 32% in the state's 95 hospitals, according to an analysis by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.
While it was difficult at first for some nurses to transition away from manual lifting, "it became just a way of doing business," says Barbara Silverstein, MSN, PhD, MPH, CPE, research director with the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program within L&I.
The success of the Washington law is most clear when the hospitals are compared with employers who did not have a mandate. Workers' compensation claims for back injuries declined by a more modest 12.9% at Washington nursing homes, which were not covered by the law. In fact, independent nursing homes not affiliated with acute care hospitals actually had an increase in claims, the analysis found.
Mandates and incentives drove the hospitals to implement the safety program on a five-year timeframe, Silverstein says.