When caring for people with limited mobility, you will inevitably be required to assist them with moving from one location to another. However, this essential task presents risks to both the person being moved and the staff members involved in lifting. The high incidence of musculoskeletal injuries (including back strains and sprains) in care workers is recognised by the Health and Safety Executive (1) who have issued detailed guidance on safe lifting and moving (this is referred to as manual handling).
The majority of these injuries are preventable. By carrying out a thorough assessment of the risks, selecting the correct equipment and providing appropriate training and supervision, the risks can be reduced.
Equipment selection is particularly important. Research has shown that the reason most often cited by carers for not using hoists is that they take too long to set up. This is often because unsuitable equipment has been selected for the task (2). Once an appropriate hoist has been selected, the process of using it becomes both easier and quicker. Here, we introduce an outline of the types of hoists that are available and which ones are suitable for which job.
Mobile hoists are one of the most popular bed hoist options in care settings and are essentially a portable hoist on legs with castors. They can be electrically or manually operated and are a cost-effective and flexible solution. You would use a mobile hoist to provide help with standing and lifting and they are lightweight enough to move from room to room.
Mobile hoists are not suitable in all settings because they require at least two members of staff to operate them safely and they cannot be used to transport clients over long distances. Mobile hoists have safe operating weight limits of around 180 kg and cannot, therefore, be used for plus-sized clients. Due to their design, they require a turning space of at least 1.2 square metres.
As the name suggests, a ceiling hoist is fixed permanently to the ceiling in one location which frees up floor space. A structural survey will be required to make sure that the location is strong enough to bear the weight of the tracks and the person being hoisted. Once the client is secured in the hoist, they are simply glided along the tracks. Therefore, only one carer is needed to operate them and they can be used for plus-sized clients.
Carers may find them easier to manoeuvre because they do not have to move the weight of the hoist. Powered ceiling hoists are available and may be required for some larger clients.
Bath and pool hoists
Bath hoists are used when carers bathe clients, but some have controls designed to be used by the client themselves. This encourages independence and is useful to maintain privacy and dignity where appropriate. Some may come with a rotating chair. Pool hoists are used with hydrotherapy pools and swimming pool. They may be permanently fixed or portable.
Both types of hoist need to be able to withstand moist environments which can be corrosive. They can be used with a variety of bathing slings to provide both support and comfort for the client.