Healthcare workers (HCWs) are well known to be at high risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Unsafe patient handling is the major cause of MSDs among HCWs, accounting for 31-72% of all musculoskeletal injuries and 27-53% of workers'compensation costs among HCWs. To prevent MSDs among HCWs, 10 states have enacted safe patient handling legislation since 2006. In 2011, California passed the Hospital Patient and Health Care Worker Injury Protection Act (AB 1136) requiring general acute care hospitals to implement safe patient handling policies and programs. There is limited research evaluating the impact of safe patient handling legislation on MSDs among HCWs. Also, data are lacking on the magnitude and cost of MSDs among California HCWs. The long-term goal of this study is to assess the impact of California's safe patient handling legislation on MSD incidence and cost outcomes among HCWs and to determine whether the law is effective in reducing MSDs. This proposed study is the first step in understanding the current status of MSDs among HCWs in California. We will analyze workers'compensation claims data in California for the last five years (2007-2011) to accomplish the following specific aims: (1) describe the magnitude and characteristics of MSD claims among California HCWs for 2007-2011, (2) estimate incidence rates for each type of MSD among California HCWs by year and examine patterns or trends during this 5-year period, (3) describe the cost of MSDs among California HCWs over the 5-year period, and (4) identify facility characteristics associated with higher MSD incidence rates. This proposed research will address the current data gap and provide baseline information for future evaluation research.
The proposed research is relevant to public health because results will inform best practices for reducing work-related musculoskeletal disorders among health care workers and help reduce social and economic burdens of musculoskeletal disorders among this population. Follow-up research to evaluate impact will provide important further information to legislators, policy makers, and occupational health professionals regarding effectiveness of the safe patient handling law in California. Results will also be helpful to other states where similar legislation has been considered or implemented. This proposed research will identify areas in need of further intervention efforts and meets the mission of NIOSH to generate new knowledge in the field of occupational safety and health for the betterment of workers.