Title 23
Health and Safety

Chapter 17
Licensing of Healthcare Facilities

R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-17-59

§ 23-17-59. Safe patient handling.

(a) Definitions. As used in this chapter:

(1) “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, and/or repositioning health care patients and residents.

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

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

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

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

(b) Licensure requirements. Each licensed health care facility shall comply with the following as a condition of licensure:

(1) Each licensed health care facility shall establish a safe patient handling committee, which 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 half of the members of the committee shall be hourly, non-managerial employees who provide direct patient care.

(2) By July 1, 2007, each licensed health care facility shall develop a written safe patient handling program, with input from the safe patient handling committee, to prevent musculoskeletal disorders among health care workers and injuries to patients. As part of this program, each licensed health care facility shall:

(i) By July 1, 2008, implement a safe patient handling policy for all shifts and units of the facility that will achieve the maximum reasonable reduction of manual lifting, transferring, and repositioning of all or most of a patient’s weight, except in emergency, life-threatening, or otherwise exceptional circumstances;

(ii) Conduct a patient handling hazard assessment. This assessment should consider such variables as patient-handling tasks, types of nursing units, patient populations, and the physical environment of patient care areas;

(iii) Develop a process to identify the appropriate use of the safe patient handling policy based on the patient’s physical and mental condition, the patient’s choice, and the availability of lifting equipment or lift teams. The policy shall include a means to address circumstances under which it would be medically contraindicated to use lifting or transfer aids or assistive devices for particular patients;

(iv) Designate and train a registered nurse or other appropriate licensed health care professional to serve as an expert resource, and train all clinical staff on safe patient handling policies, equipment, and devices before implementation, and at least annually or as changes are made to the safe patient handling policies, equipment and/or devices being used;

(v) Conduct an annual performance evaluation of the safe patient handling with the results of the evaluation reported to the safe patient handling committee or other appropriately designated committee. The evaluation shall determine the extent to which implementation of the program has resulted in a reduction in musculoskeletal disorder claims and days of lost work attributable to musculoskeletal disorder caused by patient handling, and include recommendations to increase the program’s effectiveness; and

(vi) Submit an annual report to the safe patient handling committee of the facility, 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.

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

(4) 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/she believes in good faith exposed the patient and/or employee to an unacceptable risk of injury. Such employee reporting shall not be cause for discipline or be subject to other adverse consequences by his/her employer. These reportable incidents shall be included in the facility’s annual performance evaluation.

History of Section.
P.L. 2006, ch. 353, § 2; P.L. 2006, ch. 463, § 2; P.L. 2008, ch. 475, § 48.