Consumer advocates renew call for portable bed rail ban after deaths lead to recall

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Safety commission weighs petitions for total bed-rail ban, seeks input
Safety commission weighs petitions for total bed-rail ban, seeks input


A leading long-term care consumer watchdog group has renewed its call for a permanent ban of adult portable bed rails in long-term care settings. The memo from The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care comes on the heels of last week's Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recall of bed handles linked to three deaths. One fatality occurred in an assisted living community and another in a managed care facility.

The CPSC recall stems from two petitions Public Citizen and a safety activist filed last year seeking a total ban on adult bed rails. More than 60 organizations signed the activist petition. Those petitions used CPSC's own data showing 155 bed rail-related fatalities that occurred in private homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospices from 2003 to 2012. Nineteen additional fatalities have occurred since the petitions were filed last year. More than 110,000 injuries linked to the rails also have occurred during that period.

The safety commission also launched a “Senior Safety Initiative” that includes a focus on bed rails. However, it deferred action for a year on the petitions asking for mandatory rules; instead, it pledged to continue drafting voluntary standards. Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy for the consumer group, took exception to CPCS's stance, claiming, "Voluntary standards don't work.” Grant added that it could take months, if not years, to develop these standards and assess their effectiveness.

Last week, CPSC's voluntary recall targeted about 113,000 adult portable bed handles manufactured by Bed Handles Inc., of Blue Springs, MO.  When attached to an adult's bed without the use of safety retention straps, the handle can shift out of place, creating a dangerous gap between the bed handle and the side of the mattress. This can pose a serious risk of entrapment, strangulation and death, officials said.