4 Reasons Why Sling Audits Are Critical in Safe Patient Handling

June 24, 2022

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Let's recap, picking up from the last blog post, you may recall we touched upon the pre-use sling inspection, the safety check performed by the caregiver prior to the sling application for the lift and transfer.

The Inspection Process Should Ensure

The sling is clean for a dignified lift and transfer

The sling is clean for the individual's comfort

The sling is clean to reduce the risk of an infection

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Important Info on Launderable Slings

Launderable slings should only be used by a single patient or resident and washed when soiled. With regards to using slings between patients or residents, caregivers should ensure slings are clean and should also be aware of and follow their organizational infection control policies procedures and protocols related to sling use and care. If using disposable slings, caregivers should be aware that these slings cannot be laundered and need to be removed from circulation when they become soiled, damaged, or no longer required by the individual.

Prior to sling application, the caregiver needs to check the sling to ensure it is the correct sling style, and size for the patient or resident. The caregiver also needs to ensure the individual does not exceed the sling's safe working load (SWL).

  • For the caregiver to ensure the correct sling style, size and the SWL requirements are met, the sling label located typically on the back of the sling needs to be intact and legible. The label allows caregivers to identify the sling and provides sling laundry instructions and a trackable serial number.
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During the pre use sling inspection process the sling also needs to be inspected to ensure it is in good working order.

Why? It's important for caregivers to be aware that there are numerous factors that will impact the integrity of the sling. Given that slings will deteriorate over time and with use, misuse, and/or from the washing and drying process the sling will need to be inspected to ensure it is safe to use.

Taking the time to perform the visual sling check prior to each use is important and can potentially prevent painful and costly injuries.

Slings that do not pass the pre use sling inspection should be removed from circulation as per the organizations policies, procedures, and protocols.

Slings that need to be removed from circulation include

Worn out with holes, rips, tears, loose stitching, or frays

Are discoloured

Damage to Velcro, loops, clips, or buckles

Missing pieces such as straps

Have knotted loops or straps

Questionable in the eyes of the caregiver

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Our Sling Audit Process

Another sling inspection process that you may or may not be familiar with is the Sling Audit, which differs from the pre-use sling inspectionThe pre-use sling inspection is performed prior to each sling use at the point of care and the sling audit, is a standardized and documented sling inspection process, the frequency of which may be defined by your organization.

Handicare recommends that sling audits be conducted once every year.

This formalized process which captures information such as sling manufacturer, sling style, size, serial number, and documents damage to the components of the sling for example has many benefits.

Here are 4 Reasons Why Sling Audits Are Critical in Safe Patient Care

  • 1

    Identify slings that are not in good working order, which may have been missed during the pre-use inspection or may have exceeded their lifespan and should be removed from circulation, potentially decreasing the risk of injury to the patient, resident, or caregiver.

  • 2

    The audit enables you to visualize your current sling inventory, which allows you to determine if you have sufficient sling levels in inventory, and appropriate styles and sizes to meet the needs of your current patients or residents.

  • 3

    The audit may also help you plan or forecast your organization's future sling needs.

  • 4

    Performing the sling audit provides the added benefit of being able to monitor sling wear, tear, and lifespan patterns, providing insight into possible staff training needs, or the need for changes related to sling use or care.

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It's evident that both the visual pre-use sling inspection and the standardized and documented sling audit are important safety strategies. Ensuring slings are available, are appropriate for the patient or resident's needs, are used correctly, and are clean and in good working order will benefit the patient, resident, caregiver, and organization.

And I think you may agree with the words of Benjamin Franklin, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

If you are interested in learning more about sling inspections and audits, please feel free to connect with us at Handicare.

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