The US general population is becoming increasingly older and heavier, and therefore, at more risk of having numerous chronic health conditions. As a result, there are increasing demands on our health care system and of those who provide the care, who are also getting older. Health care providers are at high risk for musculoskeletal disorders, particularly back and shoulder disorders. The majority of these disorders can be attributed to patient handling activities. Health care providers have among the highest back and shoulder injury rates of any occupational group.

The SHARP Program has a long history of conducting research in the health care industry, focusing on the physical demands placed on care providers.

Health Care Task Force

In 2005, the Washington State House of Representatives Commerce and Labor Committee requested the SHARP Program and a task force comprised of industry stakeholders examine issues related to patient handling in the health care industry. The investigation considered hospitals, nursing homes, in-home care services (home health, home care and hospice) and pre-hospital medical services (emergency medical and ambulance services).

The investigation involved the following activities:

  • Review of workers’ compensation data
  • Observations of patient handling activities in hospitals, nursing homes, in-home care services and pre-hospital medical services
  • Interviews and surveys with management and staff

The results of this investigation, Lifting Patients/Residents/Clients in Health Care, Washington State 2005, is available under the Publications tab.

Evaluation of the Washington State Hospital Safe Patient Handling Law (ESHB 1672)

In March 2006, new legislation, Hospital Safe Patient Handling Law (ESHB 1672), requiring acute care hospitals to implement safe patient handling programs, was enacted. The SHARP Program conducted a 5-year study to assess the impact of the implementation of the safe patient handling law, examining individual components of the law:

  • Use of the Business and Occupation (B&O) tax credit to acquire patient handling equipment
  • Workers’ compensation premium discounts for state-funded hospitals that implemented Safe Patient Handling programs
  • The establishment of a Safe Patient Handling Program in acute care hospitals
  • The purchase of patient handling equipment

The results of this evaluation can be found in two reports under the Publications tab.

Zero-Lift in Nursing Homes

Similar to the hospital setting, nursing home workers are at high risk for musculoskeletal disorders, especially of the back. Zero-lift or no-lift programs are intended to reduce the load on the back from resident handling.

The SHARP program conducted an intervention effectiveness study among Washington State nursing homes to evaluate:

  • The successful implementation of zero-lift programs after distribution of zero-lift training materials, and
  • The effectiveness of the zero-lift programs in reducing the incidence and severity of resident handling related injuries.

The summary report, Getting to Zero in Washington State Nursing Homes: Final Report on Intervention Effectiveness is available under the Publications tab.

Evaluation of SPH Law

Evaluation of Safe Patient Handling Law

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.

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) 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) 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.