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Introduced by Senator Lyons of Chittenden District

Referred to Committee on


Subject:  Health care facilities; safe patient handling

Statement of purpose:  This bill would require hospitals and nursing home facilities to establish a safe patient handling program.


It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  18  V.S.A. Part 3, chapter 58 is added to read:



The general assembly finds:

(1)  Patients are at greater risk of injury, including skin tears, falls, and musculoskeletal injuries, when being lifted, transferred, or repositioned manually.

(2)  Safe patient handling can reduce skin tears suffered by patients by threefold and can significantly reduce other injuries to patients as well.

(3)  Health care workers lead the nation in work-related musculoskeletal disorders.  Chronic back pain and other job-related musculoskeletal disorders contribute significantly to the decision by nurses and other health care workers to leave their professions, which exacerbates the shortage of health care workers. 

(4)  Research indicates that nurses lift an estimated 1.8 tons per shift.  83 percent of nurses work in spite of back pain, and 60 percent of nurses fear a disabling back injury.  Twelve percent to 39 percent of nurses not yet disabled are considering leaving nursing due to back pain and injuries.

(5)  Safe patient handling reduces injuries and costs.  In nine case studies evaluating the impact of lifting equipment, injuries decreased 60 percent to 95 percent; lifting and handling was reduced by 98 percent.

(6)  Studies show that manual patient handling and movement negatively affect patient safety, quality of care and patient comfort, dignity and satisfaction.

(7)  The American Hospital Association has stated that work-related musculoskeletal disorders account for the largest proportion of workers’ compensation costs in hospitals and long-term care facilities;

(8)  Studies demonstrate that assistive patient handling technology reduces workers’ compensation and medical treatment costs for musculoskeletal disorders among health care workers, and that employers can recoup their initial investment in equipment and training within three years.

§ 2502.  Definitions

As used in this chapter:

(1)  “Health care facility” means a hospital or a nursing home facility.

(2)  “Lift team” means health care facility employees specially trained to perform patient lifts, transfers, and repositioning in accordance with safe patient handling policy.

(3)  “Musculoskeletal disorders” means conditions that involve the nerves, tendons, muscles, and supporting structures of the body.

(4)  “Safe patient handling” means the use of engineering controls, transfer aids, or assistive devices whenever feasible and appropriate instead of manual lifting to perform the acts of lifting, transferring, or repositioning health care patients and residents.

(5)  “Safe patient handling policy” means protocols established to implement safe patient handling.

§ 2503.  Safe Patient Handling Program

(a)  A safe patient handling program shall include:

(1)  a safe patient handling policy on all units and for all shifts that, consistent with patient safety and well-being, restricts unassisted patient handling of all or most of a patient’s weight to situations where a patient is in need of immediate attention or where the use of assisted patient handling would jeopardize the safety of the patient;

(2)  an assessment of the safe patient handling assistive devices needed to carry out the facility’s safe patient handling policy;

(3)  the purchase of safe patient handling equipment and patient handling aids necessary to carry out the safe patient handling policy;

(4)  protocols and procedures for assessing and updating the appropriate patient handling requirements of each patient of the facility;

(5)  a plan for assuring prompt access to and availability of mechanical patient handling equipment and patient handling aids on all units and all shifts;

(6)  a provision requiring that all such equipment and aids be stored and maintained in compliance with their manufacturers’ recommendations;

(7)  a training program for health care workers at no cost that:

(A)  covers the identification, assessment, and control of patient handling risks; the safe, appropriate, and effective use of patient handling equipment and aids; and proven safe patient handling techniques;

(B)  requires trainees to demonstrate proficiency in the techniques and practices presented;

(C)  is provided during paid work time; and

(D)  is conducted upon commencement of the facility’s safe patient handling program and at least annually thereafter, with appropriate interim training for individuals beginning work between annual training sessions;

(8)  educational materials for patients and their families to help orient them to the facility’s safe patient handling program.

(9)  an annual report to the safe patient handling committee of the facility and to the department of banking, insurance, and health care administration, which shall be made available to the public upon request, on activities related to the identification, assessment, development, and evaluation of strategies to control risk of injury to patients, nurses, and other health care workers associated with the lifting, transferring, repositioning, or movement of a patient;

(10)  posting of the safe patient handling policy in a location easily visible to staff, patients, and visitors; and

(11)  a designated representative of management at the facility who shall be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the safe patient handling program.

(b)       A facility shall conduct an annual evaluation of the program, and make revisions to the program based on data analysis and feedback from the facility’s health care workers.

(c)  A facility shall purchase the equipment and aids determined necessary to carry out its safe patient handling policy and conduct the initial training as required in this section within 24 months of the effective date of this act.

(d)  Nothing in this section precludes lift team members from performing other duties as assigned during their shifts.

§ 2504.  Retaliation

A covered health care facility shall not retaliate against any health care worker, because that worker refuses to perform a patient handling task due to a reasonable concern about worker or patient safety, or the lack of appropriate and available patient handling equipment or aids.

§ 2505.  Patient Handling Committee

(a)  Each licensed health care facility shall establish a safe patient handling committee which shall be responsible for all aspects of the development, implementation, and periodic evaluation and revision of the facility’s safe patient handling program, including the evaluation and selection of patient handling equipment and aids and other appropriate engineering controls.  The committee shall be chaired by a professional nurse or other appropriate licensed health care professional.  A health care facility may utilize any appropriately configured committee to perform the responsibilities of this section.  At least 50 percent of the members of the committee shall be health care workers who provide direct patient care to patients at the facility or are otherwise involved in patient handling at the facility.  In a facility where health care workers are represented by a collective bargaining agent, the collective bargaining agent shall select the health care worker committee members.  The remaining members of the committee shall have experience, expertise, or responsibility relevant to the operation of a safe patient handling program.

(b)  An employee may, in accordance with established facility protocols, report to the committee, as soon as possible, after being required to perform a patient handling activity that he or she believes in good faith exposed the patient or employee, or both, to an unacceptable risk of injury.  Such employee reporting shall not be cause for discipline or be subject to other adverse consequences by his or her employer.  These reportable incidents shall be included in the facility’s annual performance evaluation.

§ 2506.  Determination of Need for New Health Care
  Equipment and New Institutional HEALTH SERVICES

A health care facility which develops or offers new health care equipment or new institutional health services in Vermont shall consider the proposed availability and use of safe patient handling equipment in the new or renovated space to be constructed.


This act shall take effect January 1, 2008.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont