Shirtwaist Fire Leaves Work Hazards Smoldering

Friday, March 25, 2011

A notorious fire that killed New York City female garment workers 100 years ago is good reason to remember another group of predominantly female workers--nurses--who would benefit from New York lawmakers' passage of a safety bill this spring.

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Safe Patient Handling Act

The Fire that Ignited a Movement of Women Workers from Onus Probandi on Vimeo.

A major initiative of ours to improve working conditions for all workers, but notably female workers, is our effort to pass the Safe Patient Handling Act (A.1370/S.2470). The act would institute a safe-patient handling policy in all health care facilities in New York State.

The health care industry is heavily staffed by women, who nationally make up 92 percent of registered nurses. These health care workers are especially prone to musculoskeletal disorders caused by repetitive and improper lifting motions while maneuvering patients.

The rate at which health care employees suffer injuries due to overextension is consistently higher than the average rate of injuries caused by overextension in all industries, according to data from the New York State Workers Compensation Board.

Nursing and residential-care facilities, for example, have exhibited rates that are between 5 and 8 percent higher than total industry claims since 2006.

Safe-patient handling programs provide employees with equipment and training to lift and maneuver patients without causing harm to the patients or themselves. Such programs have been applied in several health care facilities throughout the state and the country and have helped reduce injuries for both patients and their caregivers. The subcommittee is working tirelessly to pass this important legislation this spring.

If we can, it will be another way to honor the memory of the women who worked and died in the garment district 100 years ago.


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Allison Weingarten is legislative director of the New York State Assembly's subcommittee on workplace safety, chaired by Assemblyman Rory Lancman.

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