Patient Lift Injuries

Written By: Kenneth LaBore | Published On: 28th January 2017
Transfer from Wheelchair Using Mechanical Lift is Common Source of Patient Lift Injuries

Transfer from Wheelchair Using Mechanical Lift is Common Source of Patient Lift Injuries

Nursing Home Resident and Patient Lift Injuries

There are numerous negligent procedures which commonly lead to patient lift injuries.  Patient lifts are what are also know as Hoyer Lifts, mechanical lifts, then there are other types designed to assist with standing and other specialized purposes such as toileting.

According to the FDA, patient lifts are designed to lift and transfer patients from one place to another (e.g., from bed to bath, chair to stretcher). These should not be confused with stairway chair lifts or elevators. Patient lifts may be operated using a power source or manually. The powered models generally require the use of a rechargeable battery and the manual models are operated using hydraulics. While the design of patient lifts will vary based on the manufacturer, basic components may include a mast (the vertical bar that fits into the base), a boom (a bar that extends over the patient), a spreader bar (which hangs from the boom), a sling (attached to the spreader bar, designed to hold the patient), and a number of clips or latches (which secure the sling).

Many injuries happen when there is not sufficient staffing or old or improper equipment resulting in the fatigue of the workers operating patient lifts.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, rates of musculoskeletal injuries from overexertion in healthcare occupations are among the highest of all U.S. industries. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that in 2014, the rate of overexertion injuries averaged across all industries was 33 per 10,000 full time workers. By comparison, the overexertion injury rate for hospital workers was twice the average (68 per 10,000), the rate for nursing home workers was over three times the average (107 per 10,000), and the rate for ambulance workers was over five times the average (174 per 10,000).1  The single greatest risk factor for overexertion injuries in healthcare workers is the manual lifting, moving and repositioning of patients, residents or clients, i.e., manual patient handling.

Common Patient Lift Injuries

There are many types of injurie which occur as a result of patient lift errors and mistakes.  Since the resident is often elevated in the lift the injuries tend to be very serious including head injuries, with subdural hematomas, broken bones including broken arms, pelvis, hip, femur and others.  Many times the nature of the injuries as so severe that the resident dies as a result of preventable falls.

Falls from lifts can also cause traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries or damage to the nervous system.  According to the Mayo Clinic, spinal cord injuries result from damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself.  A traumatic spinal cord injury may stem from a sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes, or compresses one or more of your vertebrae.

Information About Prevention of Patient Lift Injuries

The FDA goes on to state the following best practices to help reduce risk of patient lift injuries:

  •  Receive training and understand how to operate the lift.
  • Match the sling to the specific lift and the weight of the patient.
  • A sling must be approved for use by the patient lift manufacturer. No sling is suitable for use with all patient lifts.
  • Inspect the sling fabric and straps to make sure they are not frayed or stressed at the seams or otherwise damaged. If there are signs of wear, do not use it.
  • Keep all clips, latches, and hanger bars securely fastened during operation.
  • Keep the base (legs) of the patient lift in the maximum open position and situate the lift to provide stability.
  • Position the patient’s arms inside the sling straps.
  • Make sure that the patient is not restless or agitated.
  • Lock the wheels on any device that will receive the patient such as a wheelchair, stretcher, bed, or chair.
  • Make sure that the weight limitations for the lift and sling are not exceeded.
  • Follow the instructions for washing and maintaining the sling.
  • Create and follow a maintenance safety inspection checklist to detect worn or damaged parts that need immediate replacement.

The FDA has a Patient Lifts Safety Guide with illustrations and tips for discussion on ways to reduce patient lift injuries.

Safe Patient Handling Tips, Assessment of Hazards, from the Minnesota Department of Labor, DOLI:

  • „Staffing per patient „peak workload periods „scheduling practices „…etc. (staff input) „
  • What conditions or situations put you at risk? „
  • Which lifts/transfers are the most difficult? „
  • What factors make a lift high-risk? „
  • What patient conditions contribute to the risk?
  • „What can be done to reduce the risk?

Patient Lift Injuries Lawyer

If you are concerned about injuries suffered from a fall from a patient lift or due to some other type of neglect or abuse contact Kenneth LaBore for a free consultation at 612-743-9048 or toll free at 1-888-452-6589 or by email at KLaBore@MNnursinghomeneglect.com.

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