Author Archives: GambitNash

Advice for Walking on Snow and Ice

Snow on ground

As we draw deeper into winter we are possibly going to be faced with the unpleasant task of attempting to stay upright whilst walking on snow and ice. Many home care workers walk their care rounds and the elderly and less able-bodied people we care for are particularly vulnerable to falls when snow and ice are on the ground. So below are some useful tips to read and pass on:

  • Concentrate on walking, do not use your mobile phone or read directions whilst on the go – keep a constant look out for icy patches.
  • Wear sturdy shoes with a non-slippery sole (avoid a leather sole) trainers or walking boots are best for gripping. Ice grips that are worn over shoes can also be very helpful and worth considering if you are doing a lot of walking in these conditions.
  • Walk slowly and purposefully, putting your weigh flatly and firmly down in front of you as you go. Do not run for any reason.
  • Take short steps, not long strides and lean very slightly forward rather than walking erect.
  • Do not put your hands in your pockets, keep your arms extended and slightly out for balance (a bit like a penguin and they should know how to walk in snow!). Wear gloves which will keep your hands warm discouraging you from putting them in your pockets but will also offer you protection should you fall.
  • Try to avoid carrying bags if you can particularly over one shoulder which will alter your balance.
  • If you do fall, try and relax your body and ‘roll into’ the fall if possible. If you fall backwards tuck your chin into your chest to avoid banging your head full onto the floor.
  • For older people it is worth considering hip protectors as fractures to this area are very common, although in reality a bulky, padded overcoat will offer reasonable protection as well.

There is a very good reason why weather forecasters advise us against making journeys when it is snowy and icy – it is dangerous – so take care out there.

Kate Lovett

Senior Trainer

Edge ServicesThe Manual Handling Training Company


Moving your loved ones

Top Ten Tips for Handlers

Moving and handling another person, such as assisting them out of bed or into the bath or indeed out of a chair, is rarely an easy task for anybody. As the medical journal The Lancet put it in 1965: “The human form is an awkward burden to lift or carry. Weighing up to 100 kilos or more, it has no handles, it is not rigid and is liable to severe damage if mishandled or dropped.” Therefore, when giving physical assistance to another person, advice and training should be sought to reduce the risk of harm to either the handler/s or the person being moved. This would particularly be the case when any equipment is being used with these tasks including hoists, slings, slide-sheets, handling belts, transfer boards etc.

The advice below should be followed in conjunction with some formal training and merely offers some general tips on effective posture and basic back health to those carers who are assisting others with moving.

1. Do not attempt to move anyone if you are in pain

We all get aches and pains but if you are feeling particularly tired or you are experiencing some physical discomfort (particularly in the back and neck area) you would be best advised not to undertake the handling of another person. The risk of doing some harm to yourself or indeed the person you are handling is much greater in these circumstances.

2. Do not attempt to undertake a task which you suspect may be beyond your capability

Some handling tasks are more complex than others. This is particularly the case when any kind of equipment is being utilised. If you are unsure about your capability – seek advice first.

3. Plan the task – have everything you need to hand and give yourself enough time to complete it safely

If you have limited experience of moving and handling another person you will be best advised to have the tasks written down. This will include any equipment you will be using: have this close to hand. A rough idea how long the task will take to complete is useful information so that you can give yourself plenty of time – a rushed task is never safe!

4. Always keep your spine in alignment

When undertaking handling tasks try to keep your head, shoulders, hips and feet in alignment and all facing the same direction if possible. Twisting either your neck or shoulders or lower back and feet when moving another person is a sure fire way of causing yourself an injury. A useful mantra here is ‘keep my nose over my toes’.

5. Keep yourself stable with both feet flat to the floor and one foot slightly in front of the other

Stability when handling another person is essential for safety. Try to keep both feet flat to the floor at all times. Keep your feet roughly shoulder width apart and preferably with one foot very slightly in front of the other for maximum stability.

6. Always bend your knees and hips and not your back

Avoid a ‘top heavy’ posture if you can – this is when you are leaning forward from your lower back. This posture will make you unstable and will risk injuring your spine. Instead lower yourself by separating your feet and slightly flexing your hips and your knees. A useful mantra here is ‘keep my spine in line’. In this position your spine will relax into its natural curves giving you maximum strength and stability.

7. Move in close to the person when supporting them

Holding or supporting the person close to your own trunk will reduce injury. The further any weight is from your body the heavier it will feel. Just imagine how heavy a book would feel if you held it at your full arms length even for a minute or two! Consequently when undertaking handling tasks avoid over-reaching if you can, support the other person with your elbows flexed and close to your own body.

8. Pace yourself. Do not forget to take a break

No handling task is safe to undertake when you are exhausted. Take a break before you get to this stage to reduce the risk of harm to both parties.

9. To keep your back in good health keep active, move around and try these simple exercises

Keeping yourself active is great for your back health – swimming, yoga and walking are amongst the best. It is also good advice to ‘warm up’ before handling activities: some simple arm stretches and shoulder shrugs can help here. Try these four gentle exercises to help maintain good back health. However, a word of caution, seek medical advice first if you have any current spine (particularly neck) injuries and NEVER exercise if you are in any pain.



10. Make sure that you are comfortable when sitting and sleeping

To maintain good general posture think about your sitting and sleeping positions.

Do you slouch in your chair? Is your chair comfortable, relatively firm and relatively upright? A soft chair/sofa is not good for your posture. Try to sit with your hips and knees at a 90 degree angle and with your feet flat to the floor.

When was the last time you bought a new mattress? The general advice is a mattress over ten years old should be replaced. It is also said that mattresses should be turned every six months. Certainly, if you wake up stiff and uncomfortable you should think about replacing your mattress. However, it is also worth experimenting with some different sleep positions to get maximum comfort. If you sleep on your back try placing a small pillow in the small of your back. If you sleep on your side perhaps a pillow between your knees will help. You should always sleep with one pillow under your head to support your neck appropriately

Moving and handling another person can be a difficult and daunting task. Hopefully this advice will go some way to help.

Kate Lovett

Senior Trainer

Edge Services

Are You Ready for ‘Ofsted’?


In order to address what he describes as a ‘crisis in care’, Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is to propose a new ratings system for hospitals and care homes similar to the Ofsted system that rates schools. Since the previous system, which awarded up to three stars to reflect the quality of service, was abandoned in 2010, providers have had only to meet Care Quality Commission-set minimum standards. Critics have suggested that such a system does little to promote improvements.

A study by think-tank the Nuffield Trust will consider the newly proposed ratings system and publish its recommendations in March 2013. Trust Director, Jennifer Dixon, agreed that: ‘It’s a sensible question to ask about how the quality of care is assessed in health and social care providers, given all the systems currently in place to boost and monitor quality for the public… We look forward to doing an independent analysis of this issue working with a range of groups across the health and social care world in the UK, learning from past experience, from other sectors and from other countries.’

Handwashing: Why are the British public so bad at washing their hands?


New research suggests that faecal matter can be found on just over a quarter of the UK population’s hands. In some cases the quantity of germs found is equivalent to the number in a dirty toilet bowl.

Research undertaken by hygiene experts from Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) stated that faecal bacteria are present on 26% of hands in the UK, 14% of banknotes and 10% of credit cards and one in six mobile phones. There are about one billion germs per gram in faecal matter. Even the smallest amount can leave millions of germs on your hands that are potentially quite dangerous, and live for several hours.

The research was led by Dr Ron Cutler from QMUL who said ‘People may claim they wash their hands regularly but the science shows otherwise. People in the UK are worried about infections – we know that – but often they don’t associate dirty hands with infections until they actually get ill. It’s rather bizarre; they think their hands are clean.’

In another recent UK-wide study, 99% of people interviewed at motorway service stations toilets claimed they had washed their hands after going to the toilet. Electronic recording devices revealed only 32% of men and 64% of women actually did.

The United Nations says washing hands is the most cost-effective intervention for the worldwide control of diseases. It estimates that hand washing could save more than a million lives a year from diarrhoeal and respiratory infections which are the biggest causes of child mortality in developing countries.