(1) The definitions in this subsection apply throughout this section unless the context clearly requires otherwise.
(a) "Lift team" means hospital employees specially trained to conduct patient lifts, transfers, and repositioning using lifting equipment when appropriate.
(b) "Safe patient handling" means the use of engineering controls, lifting and transfer aids, or assistive devices, by lift teams or other staff, instead of manual lifting to perform the acts of lifting, transferring, and repositioning health care patients and residents.
(c) "Musculoskeletal disorders" means conditions that involve the nerves, tendons, muscles, and supporting structures of the body.
(2) By February 1, 2007, each hospital must establish a safe patient handling committee either by creating a new committee or assigning the functions of a safe patient handling committee to an existing committee. The purpose of the committee is to design and recommend the process for implementing a safe patient handling program. At least half of the members of the safe patient handling committee shall be frontline nonmanagerial employees who provide direct care to patients unless doing so will adversely affect patient care.
(3) By December 1, 2007, each hospital must establish a safe patient handling program. As part of this program, a hospital must:
(a) Implement a safe patient handling policy for all shifts and units of the hospital. Implementation of the safe patient handling policy may be phased-in with the acquisition of equipment under subsection (4) of this section;
(b) Conduct a patient handling hazard assessment. This assessment should consider such variables as patient-handling tasks, types of nursing units, patient populations, and the physical environment of patient care areas;
(c) Develop a process to identify the appropriate use of the safe patient handling policy based on the patient's physical and medical condition and the availability of lifting equipment or lift teams. The policy shall include a means to address circumstances under which it would be medically contraindicated to use lifting or transfer aids or assistive devices for particular patients;
(d) Conduct an annual performance evaluation of the program to determine its effectiveness, with the results of the evaluation reported to the safe patient handling committee. The evaluation shall determine the extent to which implementation of the program has resulted in a reduction in musculoskeletal disorder claims and days of lost work attributable to musculoskeletal disorder caused by patient handling, and include recommendations to increase the program's effectiveness; and
(e) When developing architectural plans for constructing or remodeling a hospital or a unit of a hospital in which patient handling and movement occurs, consider the feasibility of incorporating patient handling equipment or the physical space and construction design needed to incorporate that equipment at a later date.
(4) By January 30, 2010, each hospital must complete, at a minimum, acquisition of their choice of: (a) One readily available lift per acute care unit on the same floor unless the safe patient handling committee determines a lift is unnecessary in the unit; (b) one lift for every ten acute care available inpatient beds; or (c) equipment for use by lift teams. Hospitals must train staff on policies, equipment, and devices at least annually.
(5) Nothing in this section precludes lift team members from performing other duties as assigned during their shift.
(6) A hospital shall develop procedures for hospital employees to refuse to perform or be involved in patient handling or movement that the hospital employee believes in good faith will expose a patient or a hospital employee to an unacceptable risk of injury. A hospital employee who in good faith follows the procedure developed by the hospital in accordance with this subsection shall not be the subject of disciplinary action by the hospital for the refusal to perform or be involved in the patient handling or movement.
[2006 c 165 § 2.]
Findings—2006 c 165: "The legislature finds that:
(1) Patients are not at optimum levels of safety while being lifted, transferred, or repositioned manually. Mechanical lift programs can reduce skin tears suffered by patients by threefold. Nurses, thirty-eight percent of whom have previous back injuries, can drop patients if their pain thresholds are triggered.
(2) According to the bureau of labor statistics, hospitals in Washington have a nonfatal employee injury incidence rate that exceeds the rate of construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation.
(3) The physical demands of the nursing profession lead many nurses to leave the profession. Research shows that the annual prevalence rate for nursing back injury is over forty percent and many nurses who suffer a back injury do not return to nursing. Considering the present nursing shortage in Washington, measures must be taken to protect nurses from disabling injury.
(4) Washington hospitals have made progress toward implementation of safe patient handling programs that are effective in decreasing employee injuries. It is not the intent of this act to place an undue financial burden on hospitals." [2006 c 165 § 1.]