Hoists are commonly used in a school environment for lifting or moving pupils with special needs, for example in or out of a wheelchair or swimming pool or transferring to and from a toilet or vehicle. Their use reduces the risk of back injuries to staff and enhances safety. Special educational needs coordinators should ensure that, where their use is required, suitable hoists are made available. They must also ensure that hoists are in good condition and that staff are adequately trained to use them.
A pupil being lifted in a hoist is vulnerable and relies on the hoist working safely and the operator being properly trained and competent. Unsafe use of a hoist, poor maintenance or the use of inappropriate or defective hoists or slings can cause potentially serious accidents.
Hoists come in many sizes, with different functions and weight tolerances. The type and quantity required in a school will be dictated by assessments of the needs of pupils and by manual handling risk assessments, which should be completed in all cases.
Mobile hoists are most common. These are wheeled into position and comprise a mechanical arm which holds a sling in which the person being lifted is suspended. Larger hoists are more stable but may be harder to wheel about due to their size. Some hoists fold away and are designed to be transportable.
Electric hoists have their own battery charged from a mains supply, the lifting arm being operated via a control pad. Care must be taken to remember to charge batteries, so hoists are always ready for use. Emergency features include manual hydraulic lift and lower functions in case of battery failure.
Also available are ceiling-mounted hoists which move along a track way. Care must be taken to ensure they are properly installed according to manufacturers’ advice. Advice on the types and use of hoists can be obtained from a specialist source, such as a manual handling advisor or an occupational therapist, which may also often be able to conduct specialist assessments.
A sling is a specially designed piece of fabric, which is placed under and around the pupil before being attached to the hoist arm. It is thus the sling that takes the full weight of the person. It is very important to use the correct sized sling and ensure it is properly fitted before attempting a lift. Accidents may occur from using the wrong size or type of sling, with the result that the person being lifted slips through to the ground. Staff should be trained to visually check that slings are intact, clean and properly labeled. They should never attempt to use or repair a worn, split or torn sling. Defective or unlabelled slings should be immediately disposed of and replaced.
All schools where hoists are used should have a policy or protocol which makes it clear that hoists should be used only by staff properly trained in their use. When using a hoist, staff should consult the risk assessment and any manual-handling plan devised from the assessment. They should always follow their training and any guidelines, procedures and instructions specific to the equipment being used. General guidelines will not apply to all hoists and staff should always refer to individual manufacturers’ instructions. For more information visit the site http://www.cfranklinltd.com/ .