Resources Special Needs Related Articles Strapping in For the Long Haul
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Written by Stephane Babcock   
Wednesday, 01 August 2007 00:00

How companies are keeping their customers current on wheelchair securement training

When School Transportation News asked a number of restraint manufacturers what was the most important issue facing the wheelchair industry, one answer was unanimously mentioned: keeping drivers and trainers educated on all the ins and outs of wheelchair securement.

“I’ve seen a lot of mishandling of securement systems,” said Winfried Kraft, owner of Ortho Safe Systems International, Inc. “We need to help the end users — the drivers, the directors and the people in the wheelchairs — and to do this, we need input from them.”

Video Presentations to On-Site Visits
Many companies offer on-site training sessions for either the transportation director or the entire staff, sometimes free of charge. The instruction can consist of something as simple as a video presentation and as involved as a hands-on exercise.

“Given the amount of responsibility an operator is given on a daily basis, having the knowledge of proper wheelchair tie-down procedures can help lessen their concerns,” said Christine Roe, customer relations manager, Sure-Lok, Inc.

The company’s “Doing it Right” training program covers such topics as: pre-trip assessment; sensitivity training; component and assembly operation;, securing the wheelchair; securing the occupant; and system care and maintenance.

“It’s a valuable resource for new-hire and refresher training,” added Roe.Sure-Lok customers can also request a visit from a trainer. For no charge, the training includes the video presentation as well as a training manual, which outlines an intensive training session that lasts approximately three hours. Every step of the securement procedure is explained with illustrations and an interactive curriculum for a hands-on experience, according to Roe.

“You need training from the manufacturer on their product before you can train your personnel,” said Bill French, assistant director of fleet and finance for Volusia County Schools near Daytona Beach, Fla. “It was initially a ‘train the trainer’ class, but the Sure-Lok instructor, Steve Barker, has been back to train our entire staff. We have 91 wheelchair buses that transport 129 wheelchair students. It’s a critical area; it’s done the right way or not at all.”

Seminars and Conference AppearancesEvery year, Q’Straint offers its customers a two-day training session at its plant in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The program is open to trainers and supervisors who then return to their districts and train their drivers and bus aides.

“Our program consists of a tour of our facility, a meet and greet of our staff, product test demonstrations, familiarization with J2249,WC-19, ADA as applicable, FMVSS 222, 209 and 302 and National Transportation Specifications and Procedures as they all apply to wheelchair securement systems, testing, operations and use,” said John Goss, Q’Straint’s national training manager.

There is also a hands-on session and an exchange of information and ideas between the presenters and the seminar attendees.

Some companies mobilize their training seminars and bring them to conferences and trade shows all over the country. For Ray Lee, the sales and marketing rep for Safe Haven by New Haven, these national platforms can sometimes translate into new requests for on-site training.

“I’ll show up at a conference and bring a wheelchair and platform with me,“ said Lee. “We’ve gotten our biggest customers after they’ve seen us at a trade show. After that, it’s well worth it to go down there and get them on board in person.”

WC-19 and Other Issues Increase AwarenessRecent changes to wheelchair construction and the availability of a number of different designs and models has made securement training a hot topic for many districts. For some companies, the introduction of the WC-19 standard has opened up a new training audience.

“There has been a slight increase in requests for training since the WC19 standard was implemented,” said Aaron Harris, the Southeast sales rep at Tie Tech, LLC. “As public awareness increases regarding WC19, we expect requests to continue as well.”

Proper selection of the restraint systems must rely on a number of factors, and the training involved must sometimes be specific to each district, or sometimes each specific bus.

“Many heavy powered wheelchairs present special challenges,” said Lori Crouzillat, president of Safety Angel International. “It is often difficult to find suitable securement points to attach tie-down hooks and/or straps. Many children and young adults have been injured as a result of poor restraint usage.”

Matching the right securement with the right wheelchair is paramount for the safety of the passenger. The knowledge gained through training videos, seminars and on-site sessions can only help reinforce this for the students and the parents who care for them.

“Knowing the correct way to use wheelchair and occupant restraints will not only assure the operator that their tie-down procedure has been done correctly, but also the occupant,” said Sure-Lok’s Roe.

Reprinted from the August 2008 issue of School Transportation News magazine. All rights reserved.

Last Updated on Monday, 11 January 2010 09:05