Patient lifts and risk of fall
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Types of patient lifts
In Canada, all patient lifts are Class 1 medical devices. Class 1 devices present the lowest risk to health and safety. Patient lifts (also called hoists) and their accessories are used to transfer patients who use a wheelchair, cannot support their own weight or are bedridden.
There are many types of patient lifts. They're found in a variety of settings and for a wide range of uses. For example, some patient lifts are used to lift individual limbs, for hygiene purposes, or to help someone stand up. Some are mounted on the ceiling and some are mobile devices on wheels. Some lifts are powered and some are manually operated.
It's important to read the label for your device and receive training to understand the components of your lift and how to use them. A patient lift usually has the following basic components:
- sling bar
- sling attachment points
- boom and mast
- footplate, base legs and wheels
- battery pack and remote control
A ceiling-mounted lift is designed to lift the body with use of a sling from overhead. For this reason, it will have different components from a floor lift.
How to manage the risk of falls
Using a patient lift improperly can result in falls with severe consequences, including head traumas, fractures and death.
Patient lifts offer many benefits to patients and caregivers. They're used widely in Canada, and the risk of injury is very low. Indeed, there have been few serious adverse events in Canada.
The risk of a fall, or serious injury or death increases when:
- the wrong size of sling is used
- a patient moves in the lift during transfer
- a sling is used beyond its intended lifespan
- nearby furniture interferes with the transfer
- the manufacturer's instructions aren't followed
To ensure patients in Canada are as safe as possible, particularly in a patient's own homes, Health Canada recommends the following.
Training and labelling
- Review the manufacturer's instructions and receive training on how to operate the lift.
- Keep the instructions near the lift for easy reference.
Preparing to operate
- Make sure the weight specifications for the sling and lift match, and that the patient's weight doesn't exceed these.
- Slings are not all the same. They must be compatible with the lift. Moreover, compatibility between the lift and sling must be approved by the manufacturer.
- Check that slings are in good condition and are not damaged.
- Look for signs of wear, such as fraying, stressing and cracks.
- Open the base (legs) to their maximum position for the most stable set-up.
- Make sure that the wheelchair, stretcher, bed, chair or shower that you are transferring the patient to is free of obstructions and lock any wheels.
- Keep all clips, latches and hanger bars fastened and monitor these to make sure they don't uncouple or break.
- Protect the patient from being caught during transfer by keeping their arms inside the sling straps.
- Make sure the patient is comfortable, and not unsettled or distressed, during the transfer.
- This will increase safety.
- Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for washing, maintenance and when to replace the sling and other lift components.
- Be aware of the lifespan of your sling.
- Keep the maintenance and safety inspections guidelines with your device and refer to these regularly to help you detect wear or damage.
There is added risk in buying a second-hand sling. Follow the recommendations on this page and make sure that all the components meet the manufacturer's standards before using.
For more information on using patient lifts:
- contact your provincial or territorial health authority
- review the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's list of best practices
Reporting a serious adverse event
It's important to monitor any issues with your patient lift so you can take action before an adverse event happens.
- talk to your health care provider about what to do if there's a problem when using the device
- contact the manufacturer:
- if there's a technical problem with the device
- if you're concerned about your device's performance
- to make sure your device is suitable for your needs
Health Canada encourages you to report adverse events:
Report a medical device problem:
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