Seat Belts and Wheelchair Tie Downs
Safely securing your passengers in their seats and wheelchairs during transport is arguably the most important thing that your staff will do. The fact that they need to do it many times a day, often with different clients and wheelchairs in different positions, makes it one of the more difficult aspects of day-to-day transport duties.
Too often, we learn of an accident or injury to a client in a wheelchair van during transport was caused by the individual not being properly secured. Sometimes it is user error or lack of attention and other times, it is inappropriate or incompatible equipment that is at fault.
Whether you are using a wheelchair van, bus or wheelchair minivan, the same basic equipment and principles apply to passenger securement in all of them.
A complete securement system is required to ensure passenger safety, consisting of both wheelchair tie downs and occupant restraints. They are both required and together provide the maximum passenger safety.
The term “occupant restraint” is used to refer to “seat belts”, which are what will secure a passenger during transport. An occupant restraint consists of a lap and shoulder belt that are secured either to the vehicle or to the wheelchair tie downs.
4 Point Wheelchair Tie Downs
4 Point Wheelchair Tie-Downs are the straps that connect to the wheelchair and secure them to the floor of the wheelchair van or bus. A total of 4 points are required; two in the front and two in the back, and are positioned to provide optimum front-to-back and side-to-side stability.
Basic Tie Downs
Basic tie downs are the least expensive, but also the most difficult to use, for most staff members. Basic tie downs consist of straps made of high strength webbing and use either a friction or “cam-over” style buckle to tighten them after they are affixed to the wheelchair and secured to the wheelchair van or bus floor.
Retractable Tie Downs
Retractable tie downs retract onto a spool contained inside a plastic or metal housing. The spool is much like a seat belt in that once it is pulled in, it does not allow the strap to loosen unless a manual release is pressed. Retractable tie downs have tensioning knobs on them for staff to tighten the belts by pulling them into the housing. Most people find this system easier to use and, because the straps are protected by the housing, they are not laying on the floor, thus avoiding the chance for damage.
Self-Tensioning Tie Downs
Self-tensioning tie downs have become very popular over the past several years. The reason for this is that the spool of the tie down self-tightens the belts. This functionality is especially valuable in situations where the tie down is difficult to reach to tighten manually and/or there are many wheelchair positions in a van or bus. Also, if the strap was not perfectly tightened and the wheelchair moved, the self-tensioner would take up any slack and prevents the wheelchair securement from loosening. Self-tensioning tie downs are the most expensive solutions but, our users tell us that they are well worth it. In fact, self-tensioning tie-downs are easier for staff to use, thus reducing on-the-job injuries.
VCI Mobility supplies securement systems from the following manufacturers:
Staff training is the single most important thing that you can do to ensure the safety of your passengers and reduce the risk of liability. You can do this yourself with the help of some training materials or you can hire us to do it for you.
Your wheelchair vans and accessible vehicles should be inspected on a regular basis in order to ensure that all of the occupant restraints, seat belts and wheelchair tie downs are complete and are in working order. At VCI Mobility, we can help by having one of our trained specialists inspect your wheelchair van or bus tie-down systems.