A sling is a piece of moving and handling equipment that is designed and manufactured to help facilitate the transfer of a patient in combination with a hoist or lift. Using carefully selected fabrics, a sling generally fits under and around a client, and when selected carefully, the right sling will help achieve a safe transfer and reduce the risks associated with manual handling. So it is important to get the sling selection right.
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When it comes to selecting the right slings, it is important to be aware of a range of factors. This can apply to both the person fitting the sling and operating the equipment and of course, the person using the sling (and lift). These considerations should form part of a dynamic risk assessment before using any moving and handling equipment. This requires the intervention of a competent and trained individual. The extent of competence should be in context to the degree of complexity of the task at hand.
Abilities, limitations, experience and training in using the equipment, the task at hand and the environment must be carefully analysed and the risks minimised. A clear understanding of the manufacturer’s instructions for use will help ensure effective use of the equipment selected.
Risk assessments should be recorded in sufficient detail and made accessible to enable handlers to use the equipment correctly and safely, making reference to equipment provision, accessories and the number of handlers required to complete the task. Photographs may prove helpful for additional context.
Risk Assessments: Areas
There are many areas that should be taken into account during a risk assessment, but the following encompass and summarise some of the core areas:
- Individual (Taking into account patient care plans)
Sling selection must take into account a client’s anthropometrics, body shape, size, weight, not to mention their physical and cognitive abilities. Selecting the most appropriate equipment not only enhances the experience for the client, but it may also reduce the number of carers required for the task, leading to efficiencies in care.
The physical and cognitive abilities of the patient must be analysed carefully. This is because they can change over time and sometimes within the same day. For example, a patient may have good ability in the morning when they are buoyed following a night’s rest, but as the day goes on, fatigue may begin to reduce those abilities, resulting in their needs evolving too.
Sling selection: Sling Sizes
The size of the sling is particularly important, as it will impact the individual’s comfort and safety during transfers. If the sling is too small, then it will be tight and restrictive. If the sling is too big, then the person will not be sufficiently supported. A further complication is there is no common industry sizing scheme. This means just because a medium is suitable from one manufacturer, an alternate size may be required for another manufacturer’s slings.
An incorrectly sized sling increases the risk of injury. It is essential this is only undertaken with adequate training and experience.
Sling selection: Safe Working Load
Another safety-critical consideration is the maximum capacity of not only the sling but also the hoist and any combined accessory. The lowest common denominator dictates the maximum safe working load of the equipment package. This means if a lift or hoist is rated at 227kg and the sling is 200kg, then 200kg is the maximum permissible safe load of the system.
Sling selection: Style
The shape and style of the sling are equally important when it comes to the suitability and performance of the sling. The client’s muscle tone, skin integrity, and how the sling is going to be used must be carefully assessed. You should consider whether the sling is going to be used for toileting, bathing, general transfers, the attachment type and its compatibility with the hoist.
Some clients may require more support than others and in certain areas. Those with reduced head control may require head support; amputees or those with behavioural problems may require a specific style of the sling to help mitigate certain risks.
Sling selection: Sling Materials
There are many sling materials available that can provide their own unique benefits. Some of the more commonly seen fabrics are as follows:
- Polyester – An industry standard, hard-wearing woven fabric.
- Polyester Net/Mesh – A slings material that lends itself to wet environments, such as bathing, due to its drainage properties.
- Nylon/Parasilk – A silky, low friction fabric often used on leg and/or spine sections for ease of application.
- 3D Spacer – A two-way stretch, air-permeable and moisture-wicking fabric that provides high-level comfort in most applications. Commonly used on in-situ sling models due to the potential pressure relieving properties.
Here at Joerns Healthcare, we offer a wide range of material options to meet a range of patient handling requirements. Including a super-soft polyester and disposable polyester for single patient use slings.
Joerns Healthcare Slings
Joerns have one of the most extensive ranges of sling selection on the market today. Not only this, our team can support you with choosing the right sling. Our online sling selector is a fantastic tool to help you determine the most suitable sling selection for your client.
For more information on choosing the right slings, call today at +44 (0)344 811 1158. You will be put through and will speak to a member of our helpful and friendly team.