The bills would require the U.S. Labor Department to enact a safe patient handling standard, and each covered employer would have to create and implement a safe patient handling and injury prevention plan within six months after the standard is promulgated.

Patient Handling Bills Shouldn't Cover Home Care, AIHA Says

The association's president wrote to U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who sponsored S. 1788, warning that risk control approaches aren't available at this time to address all of the workers' exposures in that industry.

A bill before Congress to require safe patient lifting plans and equipment by health care employers should not apply to health care workers in home settings, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has stated in comments sent to U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who sponsored the Senate version, S. 1788. Franken is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety.

Neither his bill nor the companion bill -- H.R. 2381, sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. -- appears close to being enacted into law. S. 1788 has been before the HELP Committee since October, while H.R. 2381 is before the House Ways and Means panel.

But the two define "health care worker" and "health care employer" identically. The latter tem "means an outpatient health care facility, hospital, nursing home, home health care agency, hospice, federally qualified health center, nurse managed health center, rural health clinic, or any similar health care facility that employs direct-care registered nurses or other health care workers," according to the bills. Both define health care worker as "an individual who has been assigned to lift, reposition, or move patients or residents in a health care facility."

In a Jan. 22 letter to Franken, AIHA President Cathy L. Cole, CIH, CSP, said AIHA agrees with his bill except on two points: The bill's scope should be limited to workers in health care facilities and shouldn't apply to health workers in home environments, and the time in which employers must submit safe patient handling reports to OSHA should be increased from one business day to 15 business days, which is consistent with 29 CFR 1910.1020, Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records, she wrote.

"While we recognize . . . that home health care workers are also exposed to significant ergonomic risk, equipment and other control approaches are not currently available to adequately reduce all of these exposures. Research should be funded and other efforts undertaken to fill this knowledge gap," she added.

The bills would require the U.S. Labor Department to enact a safe patient handling standard, and each covered employer would have to create and implement a safe patient handling and injury prevention plan within six months after the standard is promulgated. Each employer would have to obtain and use "an adequate number of safe lift mechanical devices" within two years after the standard is issued and also would have to write a report documenting each case where safe lifting equipment wasn't used because of legitimate concern about patient care. Both bills currently say the reports "shall be made available to OSHA compliance officers, workers, and their representatives upon request within one business day."

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