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Safety Matters: Using a Hoyer Lift for a Bed Transfer

As a health care employee, you may be responsible for lifting and repositioning patients—especially those who struggle with mobility. In particular, some patients will need assistance moving into and out of their beds. Without proper equipment and precautions in place, this process can lead to serious accidents and injuries among all parties involved. Fortunately, that’s where Hoyer lifts can help.

Also known as a portable total-body lift or a patient lift, a Hoyer lift permits a patient to be transported from one place to another with minimal physical effort. Although these lifts can be useful, they must be operated correctly to be effective. Keep reading for more details on how these lifts work and the steps for using them safely during bed transfers.

How Hoyer Lifts Work

Depending on a patient’s specific medical needs and room layout, a Hoyer lift can be on wheels, free-standing or attached to the wall or ceiling. Some lifts rotate, whereas others operate on a track system.

While there are several types of Hoyer lifts available (e.g., battery-powered, manual and electronic), they all leverage the same basic framework. First, a sling is placed underneath the patient and connected to a hydraulic arm. Once the patient is secured in the sling, the hydraulic arm lifts them into the air and moves them in the desired direction before lowering them to their destination.

Steps for Using Hoyer Lifts Safely

To use a Hoyer lift safely during a bed transfer, follow these steps:

  • Assess the patient. Ensure the patient is fully alert and in the appropriate mental and physical state to be transferred. Don’t move an agitated or resistant patient. Further, make sure to consistently communicate with the patient during every step of the transfer so they remain aware of what’s happening.
  • Prepare the equipment and path. Review the patient’s medical condition and body measurements (e.g., height, weight and hip size) when selecting a sling; improperly sized equipment could harm the patient or cause them to slip out during the transfer. Be sure the lift is in good condition by assessing its battery (if applicable), lift controls, attachments and safety features before use. Refrain from using damaged or worn equipment. Position the lift at the correct height and establish a clear path for it to move freely to the destination.
  • Attach the sling. Roll the patient onto their side and center the sling beneath their spine. Keep the sling’s leg straps flat, and don’t let them twist or fold as the patient rolls back on top of the sling. Securely attach the sling to the lift’s hydraulic arm per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Move the patient. Slowly lift the patient, making sure their weight is evenly distributed and they remain comfortable. Upon reaching the destination, lower the patient and use your hands to place their body in the correct position. Carefully release the patient’s weight, detach the sling from the hydraulic arm per the manufacturer’s instructions and remove the sling from the patient’s body without hurting their skin.
  • Prioritize safety. Conduct ongoing equipment and safety checks before, during and after using the lift. If the lift loses power or otherwise fails amid the transfer, use the emergency release to lower the patient and ask other employees to help move the patient manually. Report any issues with the lift to your supervisor.


Using Hoyer lifts properly can make all the difference in conducting safe and successful bed transfers, keeping both you and your patients protected from potential injuries.

Talk to your supervisor for more information on lift safety. 

This Safety Matters flyer is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as medical or legal advice. © 2023 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.


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