March 30, 2005
WHEELCHAIR TRANSFER SAFETY
By: Steve DiLella, Legislative Fellow
You asked us to (1) summarize the laws or regulations regarding the use of restraints while transferring individuals in wheelchairs from a van to the ground and (2) compare them to those concerning the transfer of individuals on stretchers from an ambulance to the ground.
WHEELCHAIR TRANSFER SAFETY
We found no state laws that mandate the use of restraints in the transfer of individuals in a wheelchair from a vehicle to the ground. But two state agencies, the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulate vehicles that transport wheelchairs (Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 19a-180 & 13b-105). DPH and DOT officials stated that there are no regulations for restraining an individual in a wheelchair while on the lifting device or while waiting to board the lifting device.
According to the Public Health Code, vehicles that transport wheelchairs must meet certain criteria for restraining them (Conn. Agencies Reg. § 19a-179-18-c). Wheelchair lifts in vans must be made of a non-skid material and (1) have the capability of supporting 600 pounds, (2) have a protective flange on each longitudinal side to protect against a wheelchair accidentally falling off, and (3) have a manual operation device in case of hydraulic failure. The interior of the van must have a locking device that (1) immobilizes the wheelchair, (2) secures it in two places during transit, and (3) prevents it from moving laterally or more than two inches longitudinally. In addition, each van must have separate seat restraints for securing each individual in a wheelchair while the vehicle is in motion.
The other New England states do not have laws or regulations mandating that an individual be restrained in a wheelchair during transfer. The Vermont Special Services Transportation Division encourages those individuals in wheelchairs equipped with seat belts to use them while in transfer (but according to the division, most wheelchairs do not have a seat belt installed.) In addition, if it appears that an individual cannot remain in an upright position during transfer, a “bunny belt” can be used to restrain the individual in the wheelchair.
STRETCHER TRANSFER SAFETY
We found no state law that governs the transfer of individuals on stretchers. The Public Health Code requires ambulances to have a stretcher with a minimum of two restraints, but no requirements on the use of restraints in the transporting of individuals (Conn. Agencies Reg. § 19a-179-18-a). Although not regulated by law, many ambulance companies have a policy of using a three-point or five-point restraint system when transferring patients from an ambulance to the ground.