When a child is totally dependent on others for lifting and transfers, safety
precautions must be taken to prevent injury to the caregivers. If there are any doubts, get help
before starting to lift. If you question whether you can lift alone or if a student weighs
more than approximately 30 pounds, use a two-man lift technique. Always have two
people present if you are transferring a student for the first time.
Management: Think Things Through Before You Start Lifting the
- Assess how you will lift the student.
Decide if you are able to lift the student alone. If you have any doubt about your ability to lift
the student safely, ask someone else to help you. It is better to wait for help and take a little
longer than to rush and suffer a long-term back injury.
Check for grease, oil, moisture, and sharp edges in the surrounding area.
Decide where and how to hold the student.
- Move the wheelchair and student as close to the transfer location as possible.
If the student is in a wheelchair, push the student close to the area you will be transferring the
student to, instead of carrying the student across the room.
- Plan your transfer and clear the path.
Check for obstacles and obstructions (i.e., furniture, electrical cords, other students, etc.).
- Know where and how you will put the student down.
- Lift smoothly and avoid jerky movements.
General Rules for Lifting
- Stand as close as possible to the student.
- Check footing. Your feet should be approximately shoulder width apart to give you a broad
base of support for better balance.
- Squat down. Get yourself “lined up” and straddle the student somewhat. Flex your back,
slightly bend forward at the hips, and bend your knees.
- Grasp the student firmly and close to you (up against your body). Be sure your grip will not
- Breathe in. Take a breath – inflated lungs help support the spine.
- Lift with legs. Start the lift by keeping your back flexed while your knees begin to straighten
(leg muscles create the upward movement). As your legs straighten, bring your back to an
upright position as well (vertical). HINT: Keep knees and back somewhat flexed, not straight.
- Hold the student firmly and close to your body.
- Shift your feet. Shift the position of your feet to turn. Never twist your body.
- Secure transfer surfaces. Lock wheelchair brakes.
- Remove the footrests and armrests (if applicable).
- Unfasten the seat belt and any other supports.
- First lifter (behind the student) folds the student’s arms across his/her chest. Lifter
places his/her arms under the student’s armpits and grasps student’s forearms above the
wrists. Usually the taller adult stands behind the student.
- Second lifter (in front of the student) keeps his/her knees bent, back straight, slightly
bends forward at the hips, and places both arms under the student’s thighs.
- Lift together by counting. On the count of three, both adults lift simultaneously by
straightening knees while holding the student closely and firmly.
It is essential to lift in unison with a two-person lift. Generally, the first lifter (behind the student)
does the counting.
If you have questions about how to perform a two-person lift, contact the physical therapist
assigned to your school.
If there is difficulty in lifting the student(s), it is highly recommended that a ceiling hoist be
professionally installed by a factory trained technician.
- The ceiling hoist is a cordless motorized lift that utilizes a track system to easily raise and
lower a student as well as move a student to various locations within the classroom.
- A sling (similar to a hammock) is placed under the student and is secured to the cross bar
of the ceiling hoist via loops.
- For student(s) who are tall, heavy, have uncontrollable movements, and/or orthopedic
deformities, the ceiling hoist is the easiest and safest method to lift and move a student.
- The use of a ceiling hoist requires a little more time to place the sling under the student
and to detach the sling once the student has been transferred, but the extra few minutes it
takes may prevent a long-term back injury.
If you have questions about how to utilize a ceiling hoist, contact the physical therapist assigned
to your school.
Hoyer Lift/Mechanical Lift
In lieu of a ceiling hoist, a Hoyer lift can be utilized.
- The Hoyer lift is a mechanical device that utilizes hydraulics to lift the student (similar to a
hydraulic floor jack).
- A sling (similar to a hammock) is placed under the student and is secured to the Hoyer lift
via chains or bars to raise and lower the student.
- For students who are tall, heavy, have uncontrollable movements, and/or orthopedic
deformities, the Hoyer lift would be an easier method compared to a two-man lift.
- The use of a Hoyer lift requires a little more time to place the sling under the student and
to detach the chains/bars once the student has been transferred, but the extra few
minutes it takes may prevent a long-term back injury.
If you have questions about how to utilize a Hoyer lift, contact the physical therapist assigned to