What are LOLER and PUWER inspections and why are they important?
In healthcare settings, risk assessments play an essential role in providing the highest quality of care possible. That’s why it is vital that care facilities take health and safety seriously, as each year there are accidents and injuries that result from errors in health and safety when it comes to the use of specialist patient handling equipment.
However, through using equipment in a competent way, it becomes easier to minimise risk and prevent serious or even fatal accidents from occurring. Of course, ensuring that equipment is used in a safe way, isn’t always as easy as you would think, which is why it’s so important to take workplace health and safety seriously, providing adequate training to all team members in line with LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) and POWER (The Provision and Use Of Work Equipment Regulations).
What is LOLER?
This regulation places duties on employers and equipment providers who operate, own or have control over lifting equipment.
These regulations require that lifting equipment, such as patient lifting hoists or patient profiling beds are strong and stable enough for use and marked to indicate safe working loads, are positioned to create minimal risks, are used safely as intended, and are examined and inspected by experts, such as Medaco’s engineers, who are trained to ensure that all lifting equipment is assembled correctly and is safe for use.
The fact is that just because the equipment is designed to lift, that doesn’t mean that LOLER automatically applies to it. It must be ‘work equipment’ and it must be able to lift or lower weights as its principal function.
What is PUWER?
These duties, like LOLER, relate to employers, equipment providers, and operators who use work equipment. In essence, these regulations require that work equipment is right for the job at hand, is able to be used safely by people and is properly maintained so that it remains safe to use.
As a rule of thumb, any equipment that is used in the workplace by an employee attracts the requirements of PUWER. In the health and social care industry, this also includes the equipment that is provided for patient care, wherever this is being used by employees. This includes equipment like bedrails, hoists, and electric profiling beds.
How can bedrails, patient lifting hoists and electric profiling beds be used safely?
When it comes to using these pieces of equipment safely, the key is to ensure that this kind of equipment is serviced and maintained regularly. This is a service that we offer at Medaco, to help our customers ensure that the equipment they are using stands up to LOLER and PUWER regulations and is ‘fit for function’.
While there are no specific regulations that require electric profiling beds, for instance, to be regularly serviced and maintained, there are many other regulations that need to be met and various reasons why this should be done. When it comes to maintenance of any care home equipment that falls under LOLER and PUWER, a certain amount of this maintenance can be performed by care home staff. However, what it’s important to remember is that the requirements of the MHRA are very strict, especially in relation to bed rails and documentation of maintenance carried out.
The fact is that there has recently been a rise in the number of incidents reported relating to beds, for instance. Investigations into many of these incidents have shown that with the right precautions in place, such as more regular maintenance, they could have been avoided altogether. Statistics show that electric profiling beds that are not maintained properly, are more likely to break down and cause emergency situations to occur, which can put both patients and staff alike at risk. Then there’s the fact that beds being out of action can also lead to a loss of earnings for care homes.
The MHRA recommends that electric profiling beds undergo a regular 6 monthly service and certification by experts like our engineers, who are able to carry out all servicing and maintenance tasks required, to ensure that equipment remains safe and fit for use. If you read the manufacturer’s guidance for most electric profiling beds, you will see that they suggest that each bed should be serviced annually.
It’s not just profiling beds that are in the spotlight when it comes to LOLER and care facility safety, it’s also bed rails. In care environments, bed rails are used extensively, to help prevent vulnerable residents and patients from falling out of bed.
However, despite the fact that this equipment is designed to prevent accidents from occurring, there have been many serious incidents involving the rails themselves which have been reported to the MHRA. The majority of these incidents involved bed rails being used on a divan, domestic and metal framed beds that have led to serious injury and even death due to asphyxiation after the head or neck has become trapped.
The majority of these incidents occurred in community care environments, particularly in care homes. Investigations have shown that they could have been prevented if adequate risk assessments and risk management had been carried out. Bed rails are designed to be used to prevent occupants from falling out of bed and suffering an injury, not to restrain or prevent them from getting out of bed. In line with LOLER, bed rails should be strong enough to support the weight of a patient that rolls onto them and should be carefully positioned and fitted to prevent injury from occurring.
What does the MHRA say about this?
The MHRA says that when any piece of equipment is used, safe practice must be in place. Safe practice can be performed by:
- Doing risk management
- Meeting legal requirements
- Implementing adequate training
- Having regular maintenance performed
Contact us to discuss your LOLER or PUWER need – we’ll be happy to help.