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AFT Resolutions


WHEREAS, six of the top 10 occupations at highest risk for back injuries are in healthcare, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics; and

WHEREAS, back injuries can result in loss of time from work, chronic discomfort and leaving the healthcare workforce; and

WHEREAS, hospitals lead all industries for lost day cases of back pain, and the inciting event for most back injury is patient transfer; and

WHEREAS, concern about the potential of back injury may also dissuade others from entering a healthcare profession; and

WHEREAS, back injuries are contributing to a worldwide nursing shortage, and it is estimated that by the year 2020 there will be a shortage of 400,000 nurses in the United States alone; and

WHEREAS, in order to recruit into healthcare and retain an adequate healthcare workforce, addressing the potential of back injury is a necessity; and

WHEREAS, the increased number of patients who present with severe obesity in addition to their medical conditions has prompted changes in the healthcare environment.  And, in order to meet both the physical and medical needs of the obese patients, hospitals have replaced or added new equipment and modified architecture; and

WHEREAS, training in "correct body mechanics" can be learned, but training is poorly transferred to the work environment; and

WHEREAS, technological advances have provided for mechanical lifting devices that are easy to use and safe for patients; and

WHEREAS, studies have shown that in order to reduce nurse and healthcare workers' back injuries and reduce patient injuries, no lift policies should be implemented; and

WHEREAS, Workers' Compensation cases for back injuries among healthcare workers are increasing, and insurers are encouraging agencies to evaluate lifting policies and practices; and

WHEREAS, the Veterans Administration in the United States and the Victorian Nurses Back Injury Prevention Project in Australia have established that no lifting is the way to reduce back injuries in healthcare workers while assuring that patients are safely moved, transferred and positioned; and

WHEREAS, in Australia, the Victorian Nurses created a back injury prevention program that reduced Workers' Compensation claims by 48 percent, reduced days lost due to injury by 74 percent, and reduced the cost of claims by 54 percent; and

WHEREAS, in a healthcare environment, patients need to be positioned, assisted into and out of bed and chair, transferred from cart to bed, and these tasks have historically involved one or more healthcare worker lifting the patient.  This process puts the healthcare worker at risk for injury and may put the patient at risk for a fall.  A no lift environment means that healthcare workers do not lift, shift or transfer patients—assistive devices are used to perform these functions, and the result is a safer environment for the patient and for the worker:

RESOLVED, that the AFT design a national campaign to establish no lifting policies in all hospitals and healthcare settings and educational settings; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT work to pass legislation at both the federal and state level; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT work with appropriate state and federal agencies to secure funding to establish no lifting programs.