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Protecting Washington Health Care Providers from Workplace Injuries

Posted by Christine Foster on March 3, 2015

A look into workplace injuries in Washington's health care industry

Health care providers are responsible for taking care of thousands of people every day. Whether you're sick, hurt, having a baby, or just need a checkup, they are at the forefront making sure you receive the care you need. Unfortunately though, in the United States there is a pandemic that is affecting the health care world; and it has predominately affected those working in the health care environment.

In the hospital industry, workplace injuries plague many of its staff. Thousands of nursing and nursing assistants suffer from disabling injuries every year, primarily from doing their everyday jobs — transferring and handling patients.

Some statistical data

A recent study published in the Health Care Management Review found the health care industry to be ranked among the highest in workplace injuries.

“The U.S. Department of Labor has identified the health care industry as a major source of all U.S. workplace injuries. Studies have shown that injury within the health care workforce is related to high turnover rates, burnout, poor job satisfaction, and leaving the health care workforce permanently, thus contributing to the existing health care workforce shortages.

Health care administrators and leaders should be aware and understand the antecedents to workplace injury that will assist their organizations in developing training programs to reduce the current excessive rates of health care provider injury.” Antecedents to workplace injury in the health care industry

In 2010, there were 152,000 workplace injuries and illnesses in the manufacturing sector, compared to a whopping 653,000 in health care and with the demand for more nurses, that number is on the rise.

Statistics show that more musculoskeletal injuries are suffered by orderlies, attendants, nurses and nursing aides than workers in any other industry. Back injuries in the health care industry are estimated to cost over $7 billion every year.

So what is being done about it?

In 2006, Washington State passed a “Safe Patient Lifting Law” to promote safe patient handling and prevent workplace injuries amongst registered nurses and health care workers. It requires all hospitals in the state of Washington to train staff on policies, equipment, and devices at least annually which includes 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 of patients.

What does the law require hospitals to do?

All hospitals must complete, at a minimum, the acquisition of their choice of (1) one lift per acute care unit on the same floor unless the Committee determines that a lift is unnecessary, (2) one lift for every 10 acute care available inpatient beds, or (3) equipment for use by lift teams. 

All hospitals must also have an established Safe Patient Handling Program and the program must include the following:

  • Implementing a safe patient handling policy for all hospital units and shifts;
  • Conducting a patient handling hazard assessment, which should consider patient-handling tasks, types of nursing units, patient populations, and patient care areas;
  • 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;
  • Conduct an annual performance evaluation to determine the effectiveness in reducing musculoskeletal disorder claims and related lost work days, and to make recommendations for improvement;
  • Consider the feasibility of incorporating patient handling equipment or the physical space needed to incorporate it when developing architectural plans.

Injury Prevention

An important part of injury prevention in the health care industry is the use of patient handling equipment and devices. The primary advantages of safe patient handling equipment and devices are that they can, reduce the incidence and severity of musculoskeletal injuries among direct patient care staff and improve patient safety and quality of care.


Health care providers ultimately have the responsibility to protect themselves as well as their patients and should actively participate in all safe patient handling practices. Although not foolproof, it can minimize the chances of a provider getting injured on the job.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation with a Seattle Workers' Compensation Attorney

If you are a health care provider, have been injured on the job and need to file a workers' compensation claim, it's best to hire a workers' compensation attorney in Seattle to represent you. Foster Law, P.C. has a wealth of experience handling workers' compensation claims for mental health impairments. Please call 206-682-3436 or contact us online to set up a FREE consultation.

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