Skip to content

Patient lifting slings

Issued: 8 March 2010
Last Updated: 24 October 2013


This safety alert aims to:

  • inform people of the risk of patients falling out of patient lifting slings attached to patient hoists while the hoist is being moved
  • provide guidance on ways to control the risk of a patient falling from a patient lifting sling/hoist and to ensure a safe system of work is followed.


Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigated an incident involving an elderly person who fell from a sling that was attached to a patient lifting hoist. The patient sustained injuries including a broken leg.

Contributing factors

The investigation highlighted the need for the regular reassessment of the patient to ensure a safe method of transfer, as well as a reliable system for sling selection, maintenance and use of slings.

Action required

Patient assessment

Assess the patient to determine the appropriate sling, hoist and transfer method to use.

Reassess the patient on a regular basis or when there is a notable change to their physical and/or mental status and use the most appropriate sling, hoist and transfer method.

Where the risk of a patient injury from transfer is high and the risk cannot be adequately controlled, eliminate it by providing an alternate care plan (e.g. sponge bath in bed).

Communicate any changes in the patient's transfer requirements to all staff that are responsible for the care of the patient (e.g. document in the patient care plan, update at staff changeover).

Proper sling selection

Selecting the type and size of sling should be based on the patient assessment and their transfer requirements.

Use slings that provide sufficient leg support to prevent patients slipping through slings.

Check the selected sling has the appropriate safe work load (SWL) for the patient and is compatible with the hoist being used.

Note: Sling sizes are not consistent across manufacturers. This variation in sizing/fit results in different patient positioning.

Sling availability and integrity/condition

Ensure a range of sling types and sizes are available in order to meet the wide range of patient needs.

Follow the manufacturer's specifications regarding checking sling and hoist integrity and condition.
As a minimum:

  • inspect the condition of the sling and hoist to ensure good working order prior to each use. A sling is unsafe to use if the sling (particularly the attachment points, seams and other fragile areas) is frayed or torn, has holes, broken clips or failing components.
  • implement a proactive maintenance program for slings and hoists.

Training in correct sling selection and use

Trained workers should be able to:

  • choose appropriate slings including sling type, size and weight limits, application of slings
  • understand the consequences of incorrect sling selection and application
  • inspect slings for damage prior to use
  • manage infection control, hygiene, laundering and maintenance.

Other administrative controls

  • Do not lift patients higher than is necessary during the transfer.
  • Ensure a clear path between the two transfer surfaces.
  • Provide adequate number of staff to safely perform hoist transfers.

Manufacturers and suppliers of lifting slings

Manufacturers and suppliers of lifting slings must:

  • provide sufficient information to assist with the selection of the appropriate type and size of sling for individual patients including the patient's physical measurements and medical condition
  • place caution labels on slings stating the importance of ensuring a patient sling is the correct size for a patient prior to lifting.
  • provide information with the slings on the most secure method and configuration for attaching the patient lifting slings to the hoist in order to ensure patient safety.

Legislative requirements

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 sets out the laws about health and safety requirements affecting most workplaces, work activities and high risk plant in Queensland. It seeks to protect the health and safety of everyone at a workplace. Duty holders should pay particular attention to sections 19 (2), 21, 25 and 26.

Further information