Essential Guidelines for Utilizing Mechanical Lifts in Caregiving

Mechanical lifts serve as indispensable aids in the caregiving process, facilitating the safe and efficient transfer of individuals with mobility needs. This comprehensive guide outlines the crucial aspects of using mechanical lifts, including floor lifts, sit-to-stand lifts, and ceiling track lift systems. It is imperative for providers of OPWDD certified facilities and programs to ensure that the use of mechanical lifts aligns with individuals’ needs while adhering to stringent safety measures.

Policy and Procedures:
Providers must establish comprehensive policies and procedures for the use of mechanical lifts. These protocols should align with New York State’s Safe Patient Handling Law and adhere to guidance provided by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Although the law doesn’t directly apply to OPWDD certified community-based programs, it encompasses provisions aimed at safeguarding individuals and staff, enhancing staff training, and ensuring proper equipment maintenance and replacement through continuous evaluation.

The policies and procedures should encompass the following key areas:

1. Safe Mechanical Lift Operation:

  • Prior to using mechanical lift equipment, perform a safety check in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines and agency protocols to verify the equipment’s operational integrity.
  • Whenever possible, use mechanical lift equipment with a minimum of two staff members. One staff member operates the lift equipment, while the other ensures the individual is safely positioned in the sling or harness during the transfer.
  • Seek training and guidance from physical and occupational therapists for proper lift operation.
  • Staff should follow an individual’s safeguarding plan regarding the use of lift equipment, specifying the type of lift, sling type, and the required number of trained staff for safe operation.
  • Mechanical lifts should always be used with appropriate slings and harnesses, adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions. Deviations from the manufacturer’s instructions should be carefully documented and reviewed.
  • Policies should designate individuals to notify during regular and off-shift hours for equipment-related concerns.
  • Clarify that lifts are transfer devices, not transport devices, and limit the individual’s time suspended in the lift to ensure a safe and efficient transfer.
  • Enforce the engagement of lift brakes when the equipment is parked or charging and not in use.

2. Equipment Maintenance:

  • All lift equipment must undergo regular maintenance following the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure safety.
  • Designate responsible parties for monitoring and providing preventive maintenance, repairs, and identifying lifts requiring replacement due to age and function.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for approved technicians when necessary for repairs.
  • If a lift is compromised or unsafe, it must be immediately taken out of service until necessary repairs are made. Protocols for reporting such issues and implementing backup transfer strategies should be established.
  • Ensure that all electric lifts have a charged backup battery available.
  • Monitor lift life expectancy and repair logs to facilitate timely replacements for broken lifts. Agencies are responsible for replacing lifts that are beyond reasonable repair.
  • Maintain slings and harnesses used with floor and sit-to-stand lifts in good working order, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Any compromised slings or harnesses should be promptly removed from service and replaced.
  • Adhere to manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfecting all lift equipment between individual use.

3. Staff Training:

  • Staff should receive thorough training on agency policies and procedures for the safe use of mechanical lift equipment.
  • Accurate training records must be maintained and monitored to ensure all relevant staff are adequately trained in the use of transfer equipment.
  • Mechanical lift training should include hands-on practice with experienced mentors or trained staff, with a demonstration of competency before operating lift equipment with individuals receiving services.
  • Staff should be trained in safe operating procedures, including backup and manual transfer procedures in case of equipment malfunctions.
  • Staff should be capable of identifying common repair concerns related to lift equipment and promptly report them.

4. Mechanical Lift Safety Review:

  • Providers should establish a committee or subcommittee to review the handling and transfers of individuals receiving services.
  • An ongoing process to periodically review the effectiveness of mechanical lift safety practices should be in place, with adjustments made as necessary.

Mechanical lifts play a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of individuals with mobility challenges. By implementing rigorous policies and procedures, conducting regular equipment maintenance, offering comprehensive staff training, and conducting safety reviews, caregivers and provider agencies can ensure that the use of mechanical lifts is not only efficient but also safe and dignified for the individuals they serve.

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