Evaluation of SPH Law

Safe Patient Handling (SPH)

Safe patient handling injuries in Washington state hospitals

The number and cost of patient lifting-related injuries remains high among health care workers. Nearly 60% of the workers' compensation claims that involve lost work days involve back, neck, shoulder, or arm injuries. For self-insured hospitals in Washington State, there were 10,229 compensable claims (with time-loss greater than or equal to 4 days) for neck, back, and upper extremity between 1997 and 2005 (all but 8 hospitals in Washington State are self-insured). The claims incidence rate was 202.8 per 10,000 FTEs. This rate is similar to that for the sawmill industry at 221.6 per 10,000 FTEs.

To help protect patient care staff in hospitals from these kinds of injuries, the Washington State legislature passed the Hospital Safe Patient Handling Law (ESHB 1672) (www.leg.wa.gov) in March 2006. Facilities with safe patient handling programs have seen a decrease in the number of injuries to patients and staff. Days of missed work, costs, and staff turnover have also decreased.

SHARP Study: Evaluation of the Hospital Safe Patient Handling Law in Washington State

In the summer of 2007 SHARP researchers made the first of several visits over the next 4 years to select hospitals in Washington and Idaho. This work is part of a research study to evaluate the Hospital Safe Patient Handling Law (ESHB 1672) (www.leg.wa.gov) in Washington State. SHARP distributed safe patient handling surveys to staff who regularly moved, lifted, or transferred patients. By comparing the results of the survey from each state, SHARP will be able to see if there are differences in the safe patient handling environments between Washington (which has a safe patient handling law) and Idaho (which has no such law).

The purpose of the safe patient handling survey is to assess patient care staff's perceptions of safe patient handling (SPH) practices in their hospital and to identify successes and barriers to implementing a SPH program.

Some preliminary findings

During the first data collection period, we received 378 completed surveys from Washington and Idaho, either by mail, during site visits, or electronically.

From the responses provided:

  • Almost all the survey participants were female (89%).
  • Most of those who completed a survey were registered nurses (54%).
  • Most were 41 to 60 years old (46%), reflecting the trend of the nursing workforce across the United States - that they are aging (faster than the general workforce) and fewer younger people are entering the profession.
  • Over half of the survey participants from Washington State (53%) indicated that their hospital had a written safe patient handling policy, compared to 41% from Idaho.
  • 7% of the Washington participants said that they had filed a patient handling-related workers' compensation claim because of pain in the back, neck, or shoulder during the past year, compared to 3% from Idaho.
  • More participants from Washington State (15%) described their safe patient handling policy as "no lift" compared to only 2% from Idaho. This might be a consequence of safe patient handling law and the increased awareness of safe patient handling in Washington.
  • Most survey participants in both states described their hospital's safe patient handling policies as the "team-lift" approach (23% in Washington vs. 20% in Idaho).
  • In both states, more participants felt that their jobs were not risky (Figure 1).
  • More nurses in Washington State than Idaho believed that a member of their unit would be injured in the next 12 months (Figure 2).
Figure 1

Workers' Perceptions of Safety: Taking Risks is Part of My Job: Strongly Disagree: Washington 21.9%, Idaho 11.3%; Disagree: Washington 22.4%, Idaho 24.7%; Neutral: Washington 14.6%, Idaho 20.4%; Agree: Washington 25%, Idaho 27.4%; Strongly Agree: Washington 7.3%, Idaho 7.5%; No Response: Washington 8.9%, Idaho 8.6%.

Figure 2

Workers' Perceptions of Safety: A Member of My Team Will be Injured at Work in the Next 12 Months: Strongly Disagree: Washington 4.2%, Idaho 5.9%; Disagree: Washington 9.4%, Idaho 13.4%; Neutral: Washington 18.2%, Idaho 26.9%; Agree: Washington 35.9%, Idaho 32.3%; Strongly Agree: Washington 24%, Idaho 11.8%; No Response: Washington 8.3%, Idaho 9.7%.

A full report of the baseline survey results will be available in the Fall of 2008.

Additional Resources

For more information of details describing safe patient handling programs, please visit these resources on the Web:

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