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Oregon OSHA - 350 Winter Street NE Room 430 - Salem, Oregon 97301-3882
For Immediate Release
October 29, 2007
Contact for more Information:
Kevin Weeks, Public Information Officer, 503-947-7428

Health care sites pilot new approaches for worker safety

Dallas, Hermiston projects highlight new alliance

(Salem) - Two health care facilities in Oregon will be the first to benefit from an alliance formed to reduce the number of health care workers injured due to patient handling.
The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services' Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) and the Oregon Coalition for Healthcare Ergonomics (OCHE) have formed an alliance to share best practices about safe patient handling throughout Oregon's health care community. The organizations plan to provide expertise and information to health care facilities about the benefits of safe patient handling programs and develop curriculum about safe patient handling techniques and the use of patient lifting equipment.

"Health care workers face unique hazards as part of their daily routine," said Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA administrator. "The good news is that there are proven ways to reduce injuries, such as using patient lifting equipment."

A significant part of the alliance is Oregon OSHA offering technical assistance to develop model safe patient handling facilities that can be applied statewide. This project will include development of materials to assist long-term and rural acute-care facilities in Oregon and across the U.S. in making the transition, including creation of a step-by-step safe patient handling program development guide, worker training materials, and a process for acquiring funding assistance to purchase resident handling equipment.

Two sites have been selected to develop model programs for protecting health care workers:

  • Dallas Retirement Village was selected to pilot development of the model for long-term care facilities. As the model facility, Dallas Retirement Village help develop a sustainable safe patient handling program for long-term care. The program will include caregiver and management involvement in identifying resident handling hazards, making decisions about appropriate solutions, developing solutions, and evaluating the effect of the program for improving caregiver safety.
  • Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston was selected to pilot safe lift programs for rural acute-care hospitals. Hospital employees and management will collaborate to develop safe patient handling guidelines for rural hospitals.

The project benefits from the generous support of Oregon Nurses Association and the Labor Education and Research Center, University of Oregon

"Our goal is for Dallas Retirement Village and Good Shepherd Hermiston to become the first of many 'Facilities of Choice' in Oregon where patients and residents receive the safest care possible and caregivers work in the safest environment possible," said Lynda Enos, RN, chair of OCHE. "The pilot project was also offered to rural critical access hospitals in Oregon since they experience high numbers of staff injuries while also trying to recruit and retain adequate staff levels."

The ultimate goal of the alliance is to increase the use of patient lifting devices and lower the rate of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in Oregon's health care industry. MSDs are injuries and disorders to muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs, such as sprains, strains and tears, carpal tunnel syndrome, hernias, pain, and other musculoskeletal diseases. MSDs are caused by overexertion, repetitive motion, or bodily reactions due to bending, reaching, or twisting.

"It has been established that there is no safe way to manually lift or handle residents," said Enos. "Nurses and nursing assistants are frequently called upon to lift, transfer, and reposition dependent and semi-dependent residents and patients in most health care facilities. These tasks place them at high risk for sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries."

Oregon OSHA pursued the alliance with OCHE because injuries in health care are a growing problem both in Oregon and nationwide. According to a recent report released by the Department of Consumer and Business Services, while workers' compensation claims in other industries are declining, health care claims have remained steady. In fact, claims in the health care industry represented 9 percent of all claims in Oregon in 2005, an increase from 7.3 percent in 1996.

The report found that MSDs account for more than half of workplace injuries in health care. Other findings include:

  • The majority of injuries in 2005 occurred in hospitals (42 percent), nursing facilities (20.7 percent), and residential care facilities (19.1 percent).
  • Nursing aides are the most commonly injured employees in health care.
  • Sprains and strains are the most common type of injury, and the back is the most common body part injured in health care.
  • More than one-third of the workplace injuries in Oregon resulting from assaults or violent acts in 2005 occurred in the health care industry.

Although Oregon OSHA has a long history of cooperative efforts with employers, labor, and professional groups, Oregon OSHA's formal agreement with OCHE is the first signed under Oregon OSHA's Alliance Program. The program is designed to improve cooperation between Oregon OSHA and employers, associations, educational institutions, and other government agencies.

The Oregon Coalition for Healthcare Ergonomics is a partnership that includes participation from the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (Oregon Chapter), Liberty Northwest Insurance, Medical Protective Insurance, Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Local 5017, Oregon Healthcare Association, Oregon Nurses Association, Oregon OSHA, SAIF Corporation, and the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center.


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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer & Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, go to www.orosha.org.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov.