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Registered Nurses Applaud Cal/OSHA’s Adoption of Stronger Safe Patient Handling Regulations

California Nurses Association Press Release, 6/20/14

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Regulators Also Grant RN's Petition to Establish Healthcare Workplace Violence Prevention Standards

The Cal/OSHA Standards Board voted Thursday to adopt new regulations on safe patient handling that are designed to protect registered nurses and other healthcare workers from patient handling injuries and to provide patients with safe and appropriate care. The board also granted a petition, submitted by the California Nurses Association, requesting that the Cal/OSHA Standards Board establish standards for violence prevention in healthcare workplaces. 

The safe patient handling regulations were developed over the past year to enforce CNA-sponsored Assembly Bill 1136, the Hospital Patient and Health Care Worker Injury Protection Act. Registered nurses affiliated with CNA took an active role in advocating for the new regulations, testifying at Cal/OSHA hearings on the serious and ongoing nature of inadequate training and equipment for safe patient handling in hospitals throughout the state.
 
Each year, thousands of RNs suffer back and musculoskeletal injuries while providing care in California hospitals. Many RNs are forced out of their occupation due to the severity of their injuries.
 
The new regulations require hospital employers to have staff and equipment available at all times to assist with patient mobilization. The regulations also require hospitals and clinics to provide comprehensive training on safe patient handling and to include registered nurses and other healthcare workers in the development and evaluation of patient handling policy. The regulations also recognize registered nurses as the coordinators of care in relationship to safe patient handling.

"We are so pleased that the board has adopted safe patient handling regulations that so faithfully reflect the language and intent of our sponsored legislation, AB 1136.  These regulations will provide protections for RNs, other healthcare workers, and patients and will ensure that healthcare workers
 
are appropriately trained and involved in making and revising policy. They also require that lift equipment is available and operable, and that adequate staff is available to provide lift assistance without neglecting other patient care duties," said Deborah Burger, CNA Co-President.
 
"This is a historic regulation that will prevent many thousands of RNs and other healthcare workers from crippling musculoskeletal injuries and disability, and will help us mobilize our patients safely," said Burger, an RN at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Rosa.

"My hospital was recently cited for violating many of the provisions these regulations will address.  I look forward to a day where patients and healthcare workers are mobilized in ways that ensure the safety of everyone," said Michele Mueller, an RN at the Ventura County Health Care Agency.

The Cal/OSHA Standards Board also granted CNA's petition requesting that the board establish a workplace violence prevention standard. The standard would clarify and strengthen requirements for prevention and protection of all healthcare workers employed by general acute care hospitals including inpatient and outpatient settings and clinics under the same hospital license.
 
Violence in healthcare settings has been an area of concern for CNA for many years, as the risk or workplace is a serious occupational hazard for RNs and other healthcare workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a worker in healthcare and social assistance is nearly 5 times more likely to be the victim of a nonfatal assault than the average worker in all other major industries combined. Nearly 75% of these violent acts were assaults by patients in a healthcare facility.

CNA is also pursuing legislation to address the issue of workplace violence. Earlier this week, the Assembly Health Committee passed a CNA sponsored bill, SB 1299 (Padilla), the Healthcare Workplace Violence Prevention Act, which passed the full Senate last month.   

"We are thrilled that Cal/Osha has granted our petition and that we the nurses are leading the charge to make hospitals safe environments for healing, rather than the shockingly violent places they are now.  Whether we succeed through the legislative or regulatory process, registered nurses will not rest until our healthcare facilities protect patients, visitors, and staff from violent incidents," said Karen Boxley, an RN at Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael, CA.

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