How collaboration can create new trolley designs

A study in a Hong Kong private hospital is a prime example of how collaboration can lead to new innovative manual handling trolley designs.

The problem

Healthcare workers have a high incidence of musculoskeletal disorders and back injuries caused by the manual handling of patients. A group of healthcare professionals set out to study how patients are handled in Union Hospital, a private hospital in Hong Kong. They wanted to come up with better ways of lifting and moving patients.

The group looked at how repetitive stress to wrists, back and hands are caused through handling patients. They studied incidents reported by staff at the hospital and looked at risk assessments made by hospital management.

Finding solutions

The research group then started the process of redesigning manual handling equipment. They consulted the hospital physiotherapist about ergonomic standards. Equipment users were also asked for their ideas. Existing manual handling equipment was examined to see if there were ways in which they could be modified. The design goal was to create equipment that was simple, easy and safe to use.

Preliminary equipment designs were made from carton boxes and wood for testing purposes. These were followed by prototype designs. Extensive testing was carried out. Discussions with end users made sure that all opinions about new designs were heard.

After repeated testing and modifications, a number of the new trolley models were produced for final trials.

The roller trolley

The majority of patients arrive at the Union Hospital by car or taxis rather than by ambulance. Many patients have limited mobility so need to be lifted from the back seat of cars by at least two staff members. Lifting a person from a car seat can cause back pain and stress.

The solution to designing equipment to lift patients from cars was a roller trolley. The rollers have bearings that help slide the patient to the rear of the trolley. The trolley can be placed on the car rear seat and the patient gently moved onto it. The rollers make it easy for the patient to slide to the end of the trolley, where they can sit up or lie down for moving into the hospital. No manual lifting was needed to transfer a patient from the car to the hospital.

The research group also developed a new operating table, footboard trolleys and a tool for safely opening cardboard boxes containing saline solutions that could be damaged by using conventional box opening knives.

Lessons for the industry

The Hong Kong hospital project is an example of how new equipment can be developed to reduce injuries. Any industry that has manual handling equipment can learn from this study. Taking time to closely observe end users working, consulting with staff at all levels, then coming up with creative design solutions can lead to fewer manual handling-related injuries.

The Hong Kong research demonstrated that probably the best trolley design is not the work of one designer, but instead a collaborative process between all levels of staff and engineers.

Posted by Katrina
30th August 2018

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