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Safe use of bed rails

What is the risk?

Bed rails, also known as side rails or cot sides, are widely used to reduce the risk of falls.  Although not suitable for everyone, they can be very effective when used with the right bed, in the right way, for the right person.

However, accident data shows that bed rails sometimes don’t prevent falls and can introduce other risks.

Poorly fitting bed rails have caused deaths where a person’s neck, chest or limbs become trapped in gaps between the bed rails or between the bed rail and the bed, headboard, or mattress.

Other risks are:

Bed rails are ‘medical devices’, which fall under the authority of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). MHRA enforces the Medical Devices Regulations and the General Product Safety Regulations to ensure medical devices are acceptably safe. MHRA guidance on the ‘Safe Use of Bed Rails’ (Device Bulletin DB 2006(06)) and details of when and how to contact them can be found on the MHRA website.

What do you need to do?

When bed rails are used during the course of a work activity, such as in a care home or hospital, the employer or self-employed person providing them must ensure that they are safe

Risks identified during inspection include:

Bed rails need careful management. Users should ensure:

HSE advises users to take into account the dimensions in British standard BS EN 1970:2000 (to be withdrawn on 1st April 2013) and BS EN 60601-2-52:2010 when assessing risk and ensuring correct fitting. Manufacturers and suppliers of bedrails also have a duty to ensure that equipment is safe for use and you should refer to their instructions.

Updated 2014-03-17