DOL Proposes to Allow Young Workers to Operate Power-driven Patient Lifts

Published October 3, 2018
A notice of proposed rulemaking published last week by the Department of Labor seeks to allow 16- and 17-year-old employees to independently operate power-driven patient lifts. One of DOL’s Hazardous Occupations Orders (HOs) 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.

“Power-driven patient lifts do not have nearly the same size, power, mass, speed, or complexity as many of those other machines,” the notice states. “From 2012 to 2016, only one worker fatality was attributed to a patient hoist or lifting harness, in comparison to 930 worker fatalities associated with cranes, overhead hoists, bucket or basket hoists, manlifts, and forklifts.”

DOL’s proposal is intended to increase the participation of young workers in healthcare occupations and enhance their future career skills and earning potential. The Federal Register notice states that the proposed rule would not reduce worker safety.

AIHA previously led a group of occupational and environmental health and safety and education organizations in sending a sign-on 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. AIHA is in the process of developing comments that will be submitted to DOL.