Home > Blog > Bed Rails: Do they really make us safer?

Whether they are used for children or for the elderly, the common conception of bed rails is that they keep the more fragile among us safe.  But is this actually the truth?

Between 2003 and 2011, over 4,000 people had to be treated in hospital emergency rooms for bedrail accidents each year.  Over 150 people have died after becoming entrapped in the rails.  Officials at the FDA think that this number is actually much higher because the actual cause of the accident often isn’t noted by nursing homes, coroners, and emergency room doctors.

These deaths and injuries most often occur when the person gets stuck in the bedrails, or gets caught in the space between the bedrail and the mattress, causing asphyxiation.

How is it that a product that has caused so many injuries is still mostly unregulated aside from voluntary guidelines for manufacturers?

One problem is jurisdictional: neither the FDA nor the Consumer Product Safety Commission can agree on which agency should be regulating these bed rails.  Because they fall somewhere between a consumer product and a medical device, neither wants to take the responsibility for the regulations despite the fact that they’ve known for over a decade that bed rails can be dangerous and deadly.

When the problems came to the attention of the agencies in the 1990s, there was a lot of pressure from Congress to regulate such industries less, so the companies were not forced to comply with guidelines.  Because the cost of complying with guidelines would have been so high, most companies chose not to comply.

But last week the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a review of bedrail deaths and began to consider how to lessen the dangers associated with them.  One important step the commission says it will take is to figure out how to educate caretakers and the public about the dangers, therefore hopefully decreasing the number of injuries and deaths.

There have been growing concerns in Congress about the regulatory gap these devices seem to have fallen through, and attempts at forming a task force are being made in order to provide proper regulation.  Consumer advocates hope that bedrails intended to keep the elderly safe are soon just as regulated as baby cribs.

Have you or a loved one been injured by a bedrail?  Call our attorneys for a free consultation to discuss your options.

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