Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and legislative director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, said Bureau of Labor Statistics data in 2008 documented that nationally, 36,000 healthcare workers were injured by lifting and transferring patients.
Nurses have more work-related musculoskeletal injuries than truck drivers or construction workers -- and California leads the nation in the number of musculoskeletal injuries, Castillo said.
The law requires all California hospitals to have a safe patient handling policy, including "lift teams" trained to move patients using proper lift equipment, Castillo explained.
"This law will prevent the most common injury for nurses and patients, falls that are the direct result of not having lift teams, policies, or equipment needed to stop accidents and reduce injuries," Castillo said in a statement.
Nursing surveys say 83 percent of registered nurses work in spite of back pain, 52 percent report chronic back pain and 12 percent who leave the profession say back injuries were the main, or a major, reason for leaving the workforce, Castillo said.
"Manual lifting can injure fragile patients by putting too much pressure on sensitive joints and compromised skin," Castillo said.