Senators hear debate over patient handling, safe lifting standards

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Witnesses at a recent Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee meeting debated a proposed bill that would eliminate manual lifting of patients in healthcare facilities.

Speaking to the senators on Tuesday were experts in nursing, occupational safety, labor research and healthcare facility design and construction. Manual handling of patients has been associated with increased risk of injury to both caregivers and patients, according to one witness's testimony. Another witness told the committee that most healthcare facilities simply aren't designed with patient-lifting equipment in mind, and to impose federal safety standards that require their use would “waste a tremendous amount of healthcare resources.”

The proposed legislation, S. 1788, would promote the use of patient handling equipment in lieu of manual lifting. It would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to create a federal standard to that effect.