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Bedrails are often used in care homes, hospitals, and within home care settings and help to reduce the risk of people falling out of their beds. When used correctly they are very effective, however they do not come without risks. Previously seen extreme cases include entrapment, caused by people getting their limbs caught, as well as people climbing over the bed rails and falling to the floor. Therefore, it is essential that all bed rails are used in accordance with the “Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998”, and since they are used in a medical setting, they must also comply with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Before using bed rails, it is essential that every individual is assessed to see if they are in fact necessary. Bed rails are not used to prohibit freedom of movement, as a restraint or to enable someone to hoist themselves up. Both families and employees must be made aware of the risks and regulations associated with using bed rails, as many people tend to overlook them. If bed rails are deemed necessary, then the proper information must be contained in the person’s care plan. However, if bed rails are deemed unnecessary, alternatives could include extra-low beds, roll guards or sensor alarms.

Entrapment is one of the most common accidents to occur when dealing with bed rails, and this can occur underneath the rail, between the bars of the rail and between the rail and the bed (including the mattress). To minimise the risk of this occurring, make sure that any gap between the rail and the bed is less than 60mm, and that the bed and bed rail are properly compatible. If making the gap less than 60mm is not possible, it is essential that a large enough gap of at least 318mm is created between the rail and the part of the bed in question. This is necessary to prevent entrapment and in extreme cases asphyxiation.

Another common accident with bed rails occurs when the person climbs over or rolls off the top of the rails. The risk of this can be minimised by making sure that the distance between an uncompressed mattress and the top of the rail is at a minimum height of 220mm. Therefore, if the mattress is ever changed, the new distance must be measured, and changes must be made accordingly.