The importance of LOLER and PUWER in care facilities

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The importance of LOLER and PUWER in care

People working in Care Facilities are responsible for the health and well-being of, sometimes very, vulnerable people. Understanding the risks faced by both staff and patients is crucial when it comes to keeping everyone safe, and some of the biggest risks posed come from the very equipment designed to make caring for people easier and safer. Both LOLER and PUWER are regulations designed to make using equipment safer, and both are crucial in a care environment.

So, what exactly are LOLER and PUWER?

LOLER (Lifting Operations Lifting Equipment Regulations) relates to any equipment used primarily for lifting loads (including people) in a work environment, and places duties on anyone who owns, operates, or generally has control over, lifting equipment. In a care facility, lifting equipment might include lifting hoists, bath hoists, and stair lifts.

LOLER requires that all lifting equipment is suitably strong and stable for its intended task, that it’s properly maintained by a system of regular examinations, that all operators are sufficiently trained to use it, and that any use of lifting equipment is thoroughly planned in advance, taking into account any risks to the operator, anyone being lifted, and anyone nearby.

PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) has similar requirements for the suitability and maintenance of equipment, the planning of operations, and the training of anyone who uses the equipment, but it applies more broadly to all work equipment – from massive industrial machinery right down to photocopiers, computers, and small hand tools. In a care facility, PUWER might cover bedrails, recliner baths, and electric profiling beds.

Why are they so important in care facilities?

Using equipment in any workplace can be dangerous but using it with and around particularly vulnerable people can be even more so.

There have been a number of cases involving poorly maintained electric profiling beds breaking down, causing pain and stress to patients who then needed help to get out of them. Plus, broken beds can’t be used again until fixed, reducing the number of patients that can be looked after. Poor planning can also be very dangerous. There have been cases of bed rails being used improperly or when they shouldn’t be, leading to patients asphyxiating as they slip between the bedframe and the rail, whilst others have died by rolling over the top. Had the use of bed rails been properly planned – as required by PUWER – then these deaths could have been avoided.

Another requirement of both sets of regulations is that safeguards should always be in a place where a risk can’t be completely eliminated. However, there was a case in 2012 of a patient dying after falling from a hoist and being impaled on a pole which should have had a protective cover on it. This resulted in the NHS being fined £1 million, not to mention the pain and suffering felt by the patient’s family.

Both LOLER and PUWER require equipment to be suitable for its intended use, properly maintained, every use of them planned out -taking into account all of the risks involved – and that all equipment has the necessary safeguards in place. Failing to follow them can lead to untold amounts of suffering and pain to those affected when things go wrong. This is why LOLER and PUWER are so important in care facilities.

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