Safety Resource Library

Patient Transfer Equipment

Moving and Transferring Patients

Injuries related to moving and transferring patients should not be accepted as part of doing business, and can be greatly reduced with some targeted interventions. Several studies have concluded that the following interventions, when used together, reduce moving and transferring related injuries.

Mechanical Lifting Equipment:

Obtaining proper equipment is paramount in the battle against injuries related to moving and transferring patients. Deciding which equipment your facility needs is not a task that should be taken lightly. Each piece of equipment requires a different level of participation by both the caregiver and the patient. Involving the employees in the review of each piece of equipment prior to purchase is important, and can help increase the success of your program. Also, allowing the employees to use the equipment on a trial basis can help with the success of implementation.

Lifting equipment is sometimes seen as an obstacle to quality care among healthcare professionals and healthcare organizations. However, when provided, these devices help reduce patient/ worker interactions that can result in injury to both the patient and the worker. Because the patient is more comfortable and confident in his or her care, aggression related encounters that might result in injury to the employee and/or the patient can also be reduced.

Mechanical lifting devices are used to move a person from one area to another; for example, from the bed to the chair or the chair to the commode, or to help them up off the floor after a fall. They come in a variety of types, styles, and sizes to accommodate every type of patient your facility may see. To institute an effective injury prevention program, organizations must select and make available several different kinds of mechanical lifts based on their patient population. If the patient population is fairly stable and unchanging, organizations can look to use fewer types of lifting equipment, however, if the patient population is diverse, the lifting equipment must also be diverse to meet the needs.

The number and location of these lifts is important. Locate them so they’re readily accessible to employees. If it’s inconvenient to use them, they won’t get used.

Patient Evaluation:

In addition to purchasing equipment for employees to use, it is equally important to have a process by which patients are evaluated upon arrival to determine what functional abilities they have and the type of equipment that would best help them and their caregivers. This process must be easily achieved, and must have a section for caregiver input. This program must be comprehensive enough to deal with the range of patients your facility may see, yet flexible enough that employees can make changes as the patient needs change.


Employees must be trained in the proper use and maintenance of any lifting equipment purchased. This training should include an overview of the equipment, as well as detailed operating instructions. In addition, employees who use the equipment should be monitored to ensure they understand the use of the equipment. In several studies, it was determined that employees who had more hands on training were better equipped to operate the equipment, which resulted in reduced injuries to caregivers than if the employee had only visual training. This training should be required of all employees, regardless of their tenure with your organization or with their experience in the care field.

In addition to training all care staff, it is important to train your maintenance staff in the proper use and care of the equipment as well. It was found that if maintenance staff had a clear understanding of how to properly use the equipment, they were more likely to identify issues with the equipment prior to the equipment not functioning properly.

Training employees about the methods used to classify the patient, and what the protocol for lifting that patient is should also be a top priority. This training should happen any time a new patient is assigned to the caregiver, or any time a patient has a change in their lifting protocol.

Zero Lift Policies:

Ultimately, setting the expectations in a written policy stating that caregivers are required to follow the patient protocol and the development of a zero lift policy for your organization are the keys to greater success with these interventions. Alone, each intervention will provide some protection against caregiver injury, but coupled together as an entire program, these interventions can greatly reduce the number of injuries. A written policy, with clear direction, expectations, and a mechanism for oversight, whether that is with the employees themselves or the charge nurse, is the best way to ensure that the efforts put forth to purchase equipment and identify patient protocols is not wasted. Requiring employees to follow policy will help build and maintain a culture where safe work is expected by all parties.

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