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Portering Staff

Do you recognise this action? Do you feel it on your back?

Porters today will move hundreds of beds, stretchers and other equipment every week. In fact some documentation suggests that one porter can travel 10 -15 miles a day pushing beds. These beds are moved along corridors, around tight corners, into lifts and into other challenging spaces.

Pulling bed round corner

 How much force is required to push a bed or stretcher ?  

As a rough guide the amount of force that needs to be applied to move a load over a flat, level surface using a well-maintained bed or stretcher  is at least 2% of the load weight. For example, if the load weight is 400 kg, then the force needed to move it is 8 kg. The force needed will be larger, perhaps a lot larger, if conditions are not perfect (eg wheels not in the right position or a product that is old or that is poorly maintained). The force needed becomes more if negotiating  a slope or ramp. For example, if a load of 400 kg is moved up a slope of 1 in 12 (about 5°), the required force is over 30 kg even in ideal conditions -good wheels and a smooth slope. This is above the guideline weight for men and well above the guideline weight for women. Moving an object over soft or uneven surfaces requires higher forces. On an uneven surface, the force needed to start the load moving could increase to 10% of the load weight, putting portering staff at huge risk of injury.


The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) in the UK are quite clear about how best to reduce risk -  The regulations require employers to:

Avoid  - the need for hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable;

Assess- the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling that can’t be avoided; and

Reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.

With the increasing population of obese patients in hospitals, and in combination with a heavily built bed to support them, this creates a never ending challenge in the mix of patients that porters are moving around every day. Usually this would be a two or even three man job to move a bariatric bed and patient. However if two extra porters are not available, it then becomes an almost impossible task, with potential physiological and dignity issues for the patient.

Innovations such as the 5th wheel on Hill-Rom's products help in many cases, but for heavier challenges please see the new universal bed mover.