Zero Lift Programs in Small Rural Hospitals in Washington State: Reducing Back Injuries among Health Care Workers

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Abstract

In Washington State, health care workers have the highest rate of compensable back injuries. Washington Hospital Services, a self-insured workers' compensation program, implemented a zero lift program in 31 of its 38 hospitals. Zero lift was defined as replacing manual lifting, transferring, and re-positioning of patients with mechanical lifting or use of other patient assist devices. This program included two trusts, two pools of hospitals that self-insure workers' compensation. The pools are governed by elected boards of trustees from the pool memberships and regulated by the State Department of Labor and Industries. This pretest–posttest descriptive study compared patient-handling injury data prior to program implementation with those after program implementation. Patient-handling injury claims decreased by 43% in the participating hospitals from 2000 to 2004 (i.e., from 3.51 to 2.23). The time lost frequency rate decreased by 50% (i.e., from 1.91 to 1.03).

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