Electric Profiling Beds (EPB) are one of the key pieces of equipment in hospitals, respite and care homes. The base of the bed is sectioned so that the mattress can be adjusted to support the user in the sitting position and prevent them from slipping down the bed. The height can also be adjusted and all is controlled by a handset. However, many care institutions have the standard hydraulic type beds. These are foot operated via a pump. These beds are flat with a backrest. The EPB’s are more versatile; however both types of beds have their uses. EPBs can position and mobile patients in a specific way to aid recovery, to increase safety and for better manual handling. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) apply to both types of beds. Regulation 4 of these regulations require employers, where reasonably practical, to ensure that their employees do not undertake any unnecessary manual handling operations that may cause risk of injury or harm. With regards to manual handling operations employers must make sufficient risk assessments to identify steps whereby the use of these machines brings the lowest possible occurrence of harm to the patient, operator and the public.
Electric profiling beds are very useful, in that they reduce the need for staff to manually adjust the backrests and bed height. EPBs lower the risk of injury. Patients can reposition themselves more independently and prevent falling down the bed which can cause associated pressure damage. There is a knee break to prevent patients slipping down the bed. EPBs reduce many patient handling tasks to the occupant, the environment and the operator. EPBs can have many indirect benefits, including improved lung function, improved cardiac output, improved gut mobility, reduced muscle wastage, whilst maintaining joint flexibility.
However, EPBs can pose issues. They are heavier than normal beds and cannot be moved so easily. Some hospitals use bed pullers to move them but this is an additional cost. Electrical problems may arise due to trailing cables, during cleaning or if the bed is moved whilst plugged in. Additional electrical infrastructure may be needed for EPBs. There is a risk of entrapment or crushing, particularly if a foot pedal is accidently pushed, which is used to raise and lower the bed. The care institution needs to take into account the patient’s vulnerability in addition to moving and handling operations. Safe measures can include disabling the foot controls so they cannot be accidently operated. Staff should be trained, so that when cleaning and making beds there will be no inadvertent engagement with the controls. If musculoskeletal injury is a risk from staff, it would be advisable to replace standard beds with profiling beds. This would be an extra cost but would be justified with regard to adhering to the manual handling laws.
EPS are not defined as lifting equipment according to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), however there are requirements under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). In compliance with PUWER, EPB’s must be safe for use, maintained, have protective devices and those who will use them should be trained in their instruction and use.