AIHA Comments on DOL Proposal to Allow Young Workers to Operate Power-driven Patient Lifts

Posted November 7, 2018

On Nov. 1, AIHA submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Labor on the department’s proposed rule that seeks to allow 16- and 17-year-old employees to independently operate power-driven patient lifts. One of DOL’s Hazardous Occupations Orders, HO 7, currently prohibits youth from working in occupations that involve operating, riding on, and assisting in the operation of most power-driven hoisting apparatus, including power-driven patient lifts. The Federal Register notice announcing the proposed rule posits that patient lifts “substantially differ in form and function” from the other heavy industrial equipment governed by the HO, including forklifts, backhoes, and cranes.

In its comments, AIHA expresses concerns that the department provides no scientific evidence for this proposed rule.

“It is possible that the technologies of power-driven patient lifts and healthcare industry work environments have improved … such that the hazards to 16- and 17-year-olds have been reduced,” AIHA’s comments read. “However, the Department has provided no evidence that this is the case, and absent a new study by NIOSH, it would be irresponsible to place young workers at greater risk in an industry with one of the highest rates of injuries based upon a handful of letters and tangential anecdotes.”

AIHA urges DOL to protect America's young healthcare workers by issuing a new rule that would prohibit 16- and 17-year-olds from manually lifting patients who cannot bear weight; maintaining the current conditions under which 16- and 17-year-olds can operate power-driven patient lifts under HO 7; and asking NIOSH to revisit the work it conducted from 2010 to 2011 (see the letter by NIOSH Director John Howard to Wage and Hour Division Deputy Administrator Nancy Leppink, PDF). AIHA also urges DOL to ask NIOSH to conduct a new assessment to determine the circumstances, if any, that 16- and 17-year-olds can safely operate power-driven patient lifts, either independently or as part of a team with another employee who is at least 18 years of age.

AIHA's full comments on this rulemaking are available as a PDF.

AIHA previously led a group of occupational and environmental health and safety and educational organizations in sending a letter (PDF) to DOL and the Office of Management and Budget urging them to temporarily suspend further action on this rulemaking until stakeholders and agencies have been engaged. It is AIHA's understanding that in drafting this proposed rule, neither OSHA nor NIOSH were consulted, and no listening sessions were held with stakeholders.

DOL is accepting public comments on the proposal through Nov. 26, 2018.