An aged care resident was recently injured while being raised via an overhead ceiling hoist when a connection of the associated equipment to a weigh scale failed and separated striking the person on the hand. The incident occurred as the resident was about to be lifted from a bed and fortunately they did not fall while being raised.
Patient hoist weigh scale device and associated equipment
A patient hoist weigh scale device (weigh scale) is an attachment for a patient hoist that allows a person to be weighed while in a hoist. Weigh scales require associated equipment to be structurally connected to them in order to work with a hoist to weigh a person. They are typically used to weigh bedbound patients or residents, or those who cannot stand. Weigh scales, when fitted to patient hoists, form part of the load path and their integrity is critical to the safety of patients or residents.
Note: Weigh scales and associated equipment that bear the patient’s load once connected to a patient hoist are an item of plant for the purposes of Part 3.5 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations). Specific duties apply to certain types of plant used at workplaces (including patient hoists).
If the weigh scale and associated equipment is not regularly inspected and maintained, then the equipment could fail and the patient, resident or employee could be injured due to falling from the hoist or from falling objects.
Recommended ways to control risks
- Weigh scales and associated equipment used for patient handling should be regularly inspected and maintained as per the manufacturer's instructions, or the instructions of a competent person.
- If the manufacturer’s or supplier’s safe use information contains insufficient detail as to the frequency, methodology and rejection criteria of the inspection(s) then further information should be sought from the supplier or from a competent person.
- Weigh scales are also required to be regularly calibrated, which may be undertaken separately to a safety inspection by a third party.
- In some instances, owners or operators of weigh scales may be under the impression that calibration includes a safety inspection of the weigh scales, however, this may not be the case. Owners or operators should check their agreements with the third party to clarify whether the calibration checks also include a safety inspection of the weigh scales and associated equipment.
- Any component of a weigh scale or it’s associated equipment that is removed for calibration or inspection purposes should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and original design prior to placing the equipment back into service.
- Pre-use inspections need to be undertaken by the operator to identify any defects or areas of concern prior to use. Post-connection checks of the connection between the weigh scale and patient handling equipment are needed to confirm that the components are connected and secured correctly.
- If issues are identified, the weigh scale or associated equipment should be withdrawn from service until it has been thoroughly checked and any issues rectified by a competent person.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), employers must, so far as reasonably practicable:
- provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
- provide and maintain plant (which includes weigh scales and associated equipment), and systems of work, that are safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
- make arrangements for ensuring safety and the absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage or transport of plant (including weigh scales and associated equipment)
- ensure that persons other than employees (including patients, residents and members of the public) are not exposed risks to their health and safety arising from the employer's undertaking
- consult with employees, independent contractors and health and safety representatives when identifying or assessing hazards or risks to health or safety and making decisions about risk control measures
Under the OHS Act, employers must also provide employees and independent contractors with the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health (which includes for the use and inspection of weigh scales and associated equipment). Employers must also notify WorkSafe immediately after becoming aware that an incident has occurred at a workplace involving immediate risks to health and safety resulting from the fall or release from a height of any plant.
The OHS Regulations set out addition legal duties employers have with respect of certain types of plant, which includes patient hoists (with or without a load-bearing weigh scale and associated equipment attached). Employers must identify hazards, eliminate or reduce risks and if necessary, review risk control measures. Employers must also regularly inspect plant and ensure any attachments are appropriate to the load to be lifted. The Plant Compliance code provides practical information on the duties related to plant, the hierarchy of control and how to comply.