Breaks Are A Lifersaver

This is the latest edition of the weekly Legislative Update newsletter from the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

OLYMPIA (March 25, 2019) — When you work an extended period without rest, you are more likely to make mistakes. Everybody knows this. It’s just common sense. But when you’re a frontline health care worker, mistakes can be a matter of life and death.

Nurses must administer proper dosages of medication, surgical techs must perform key functions during operations, and other frontline healthcare workers support essential care and treatment that will determine whether patients recover — or don’t. Numerous studies have proven the link between long, uninterrupted hospital work shifts and medical errors/adverse outcomes not only for patients, but also for the health care employees themselves in terms of work-related injuries.

And yet under current Washington state law, hospitals can effectively deny rest periods for their staff, increasing these risks for patients and health care workers. Hospital administrators can — and do — deny frontline health care workers uninterrupted meal and rest breaks.

SHB 1155, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane), is patient safety legislation that would ensure these health care workers receive uninterrupted meal and rest breaks and close a dangerous loophole in the mandatory overtime law. The bill, which passed the House on a bipartisan 63-34 vote, has passed the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, and will be heard Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Finance Committee.


TAKE ACTION! Please visit to send your state senator a message to vote YES on this important patient-safety legislation. Supported by the Washington State Nurses Association, UFCW 21, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and many other public health advocates, SHB 1155 will help ensure our nurses and caregivers are well-rested and alert, and help reduce medical errors and ensure quality care for Washingtonians.

Frontline health care workers from across Washington state have been contacting their state legislators, particularly in rural areas with less access to medical delivery services, to urge support for SHB 1155 to promote high quality and safe medical care. (Pictured here are frontline staff at Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco. See #BreaksAreALifesaver for more examples. And post your own!)

Nurses and frontline health care workers always find time to provide the kind of care and comfort that leaves an impression on patients and their families. They take good care of us, and we need to take good care of them.

Please send a message to your state senator today and urge passage of SHB 1155.

Gabrielle Prawl