It is our belief that with the sale of any type of evacuation or moving and handling equipment there lies a responsibility on the part of the provider (and/or on the purchasing authority) to ensure that all users have received adequate product training.
At Hospital Aids product training is available for all of their product range and depending upon the value of the order and the location of the purchasing authority this may be provided free of charge.
However, the emphasis on practical training for the equipment is often underestimated and in some quarters, the emergence of “online training” is being hailed as an innovative step forward, replacing the need for physical training!
Hospital Aids believes that this could be a “dangerous mistake” and that simply relying on online tuition and dismissing physical training altogether could potentially pose the biggest threat for the mobility-impaired and wheelchair users.
Stephen Clark, International Sales Director of Hospital Aids said: “In an emergency evacuation the prospect of having to be responsible for another person’s safety can be extremely daunting. Although evacuation equipment is generally “user friendly”, there is always an element of having to overcome the psychological barrier of actually negotiating the descent of a flight of stairs which shouldn’t be taken lightly. Gaining the required confidence to be comfortable with transporting an individual in an evacuation device is something that cannot be learnt online and whilst utilising online training to “back up” the physical process there certainly needs to be a practical element to the training.”
The subsequent consequences of substituting online training for practical training pose a huge risk to the safety of not only the individual who is in need of evacuation but also the handler/s who is/are operating the evacuation device. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005 outlines that the onus for ensuring the safe evacuation of a building lies with the designated Responsible Person within that organisation. Consequently, the principles of care and prevention need to be implemented in order to meet legal obligations; this involves avoiding risks and giving appropriate and adequate instruction to employees.
Part of this preparedness in our opinion would need to involve practical training on the use of the evacuation devices provided in these premises, so that in the event of such an evacuation, those in charge of operating the devices know exactly what to do without hesitation and with the confidence needed at a time of extreme stress.
Hospital Aids offer a variety of different training alternatives for all types of premises, depending upon the selection of the evacuation devices, whether that may be Ski Sleds, Ski Sheets, Ski Pads or Evacuation Chairs — please make contact with us if you feel that initial or “top-up” training is required for your staff.
There are obviously some situations where greater care is required, such as for the evacuation/rescue of Bariatric Patients (Bariatric EvacMat) or where patients/service users have specific medical problems such as brittle bones (Double Thickness Ski Pad) and are happy to provide a “training partnership” with in house manual handling advisers, if required.
Stephen Clark said “It would be our ultimate aim to ensure that all potential evacuation device users complete a training course, in order to meet a level of competence that will inspire them and others to use the evacuation devices confidently under any circumstances. It is safe to say that within an emergency situation, the evacuation devices chosen is/are only as effective as the person operating it/them!”
“Both manufacturers and indeed our suppliers have a duty to communicate the importance of undertaking proper practical training - in our opinion there are too many “purchase only” websites who “sell product” without encouraging training in the correct use of the product. Whilst this might tick a box, in the short-term it could potentially have fatal consequences further down the line”.
In relation to the specific use of evacuation devices, Government guidelines on the Means of Fire Escape for Disabled People state that it is essential that when a device is purchased, a suitable training system is also implemented. For Hospital Aids, the responsibility of having the adequate means of evacuation extends beyond simply purchasing evacuation equipment and unless proper training is undertaken — in the form of physical learning, wheelchair users and those who are mobility-impaired, in particular could find themselves exposed to further hazards and unnecessary injury.
Originally published in Means of Escape, May 2013.