Care home employees typically spend a lot of time moving and handling.
For example, helping residents move or moving equipment.
No matter what the task is, it is essential that carers know how to carry out tasks safely and correctly. They should know how to assist someone in a wheelchair, help someone to sit up in bed and use specialist equipment such as hoists.
Poor moving and handling can lead to:
- Discomfort and lack of dignity for the person being moved
- Moving and handling accidents – injuring the employee as well as the person being moved
- Musculoskeletal disorders – leading to increased worker absenteeism
- A heavy fine being imposed if safe work practices were not in place and/or followed.
Both employers and employees must act to prevent or minimise the risk of injury.
As a care home employer, you are required to reduce the risk of injury from manual handling tasks to as low a level as ‘reasonably practicable’.
This will involve:
- Avoiding the need for employees to manually handle where there is a risk of injury
- Carrying out a manual handling risk assessment before any manual handling tasks are performed
- Providing training and information including specific information about the equipment and techniques to be used when manual handling
- Assessing the layout, structure or nature of the work and the individual capability of staff.
You must also make sure moving and handling equipment is maintained and safe to use. Staff should be adequately trained in the safe use of equipment and safe moving and handling. A Health & Safety company like Ellis Whittam will be able to ensure your team are being compliant.
It is therefore essential that care home workers carry out each moving and handling task with Health & Safety in mind and that safe working procedures are in place and followed.
If workers know how to handle people and objects safely and follow the correct pushing, pulling, lifting, lowering and manoeuvring practices, then their wellbeing will be safeguarded – as well as anyone being moved.
An ergonomic approach to manual handling should be taken. In plain English, this means making sure moving or handling is done in a way that is comfortable and efficient.
Top Moving/Handling Tips
The following are some of the best/ergonomic ways to carry out the manual handling of people:
- adopt a stable position with feet apart and one leg slightly forward to maintain balance
- if lifting from a low level, squat using the back, hips and knees rather than bending over – using only the back
- get a good hold with your hands and arms, ideally with most of the person’s weight next to your body
- if they are unable to use their legs, put one arm under the legs and one around the shoulders
- alternately, pivot the person, so their legs are over the side of the bed before lifting
- avoid twisting or leaning sideways, especially while the back is bent
- as the lift is carried out – shoulders should be kept level and facing in the same direction as the hips.
Proper lifting techniques involve:
- placing one arm under the legs and one around the person’s shoulder to lift them
- making sure you have a good grip around the person with your arms and hands
- keeping the majority of the person’s weight close to your body
- asking for assistance if the weight is more than you can safely manage
- moving smoothly and going no faster than walking pace so you remain in control
- keeping your head up and looking towards the direction you are moving
- not allowing the person to hold on around your neck with their arms – this can cause serious injury.
Resident manual handling should only occur in cases which do not involve lifting most or all of the resident’s weight.
- always push rather than pull – this allows steering and stopping to be controlled and you to see where you’re going more easily
- avoid uneven floors – pushing over them requires greater force and puts more strain on your body
- avoid using excessive force to push – this can strain your neck, back and arms
- keep your feet well away from the wheelchair
- push the chair no faster than walking pace.
- make sure they have a good grip on you and you on them – before beginning to move
- don’t allow them to grip around your neck
- keep the person’s weight close to your body as they manoeuvre from one place to another
- use both arms or ask for assistance – so the whole weight of the person isn’t on one side of your body for too long
- avoid twisting your back while supporting the person
- keep shoulders and hips facing the direction of travel
- if the person has a walking aid, make sure it is the right height for them.
- choose the right size sling – the wrong size can result in discomfort if too small or the person slipping through it if too large
- use the right hoist for the task – the wrong type can result in inadequate support and risk of falling
- inspect the equipment regularly – it can fail due to lack of maintenance – the Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 require employers to inspect and thoroughly examine lifting equipment every six months
- don’t leave people unattended
- use the hoist correctly – failing to use a harness, belt or attachment appropriately can cause injury
- make sure the person in the hoist is comfortable – some slings come with different length loops in order to increase comfort or range of position
- choose the correct loop so the person is not at risk of slipping and use the same loop configuration on both sides to reduce the risk of sideways falling or overturning.
It is important hoists are tailored according to the individual. Each person’s care plan should specify:
- which hoist to use for each task
- the type and size of sling to use
- any individual configurations of loop or leg attachment
- the use of any additional safety devices such as safety belts
- the number of carers needed to carry out the task.
Don’t forget – Ellis Whittam can support you with your health and safety obligations. Contact us now to find out more.