Electric Wheelchairs Scooters and Bariatric Mobility Products
How to Transport Bariatric Patients
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From recent discussions and watching automotive shows on TV, I believe there is great misunderstanding about transporting a person in a wheelchair in vehicles. In particular there are major issues in transporting Bariatric persons. Let’s start by discussing the enormous forces involved. In a 30 m.p.h. crash you can see forces of 20 Gs (20 times the pull of gravity). A 350 lb. chair with a 650 lb. rider equals 1,000 lb. at 1 G and 20,000 lb. or 10 tons at 20 Gs. To put that in perspective, a Peterbilt Semi-tractor with crew cab option only weighs 18,000 lb. or 9 tons. So if a van hits a wall at only 30 m.p.h., the chair & rider are the equivalent of a Peterbilt tractor + 2,000 lb.. flying into the back of someone’s seat and out the front of the van. If a van stops quickly by just braking from 60 m.p.h. the forces involved are .5 to .75 G. We rate our 650 lb. Boss for a 7 degree incline. For safety each 650 lb. Boss brake is tested to the equivalent of a 15 degree incline fully loaded. But the braking forces involved in holding a Boss with a 650 lb. person when a van stops quickly can reach the equivalent of a 30 degree ramp or 4.2 times the incline rated holding power of the brake. There is no scooter or power wheelchair brake I am aware of that can hold at this force level repeatedly. Even if the brake did hold at .75 G, we still are not talking about what would happen in a simple 5 or 10 m.p.h. parking lot impact. We need to secure the chair and the rider.
Understanding the Current Testing Limitations
Currently the standard automotive seat belts used in the RESNA standard are rated for 9,000 lb capacity, 5,000 lap belt and 4,000 lb. upper torso belt. So the maximum rider weight is 450 lb. (20 X 450 - 9,000 lb). Currently there is no RESNA testing standard for persons above 450 lb. The standard states wheelchair and users with total mass greater than 275 lb. should be transported in a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 8,800 lb. - a Ford E-250 van or bigger. Wheelchairs with a mass greater than 275 lbs may use four point rear securement points and two front securement points. See drawing showing two rear and two front securement points.

Use of The Convenient Belt Lockdown System
A few years ago I visited a dealer who was doing a full package van conversion - power wheelchair platform lift, driving controls and bolt securement system. They had installed the bolt system in the floor and on the powerchair but I was surprised to see they were using the van’s seat belt system to restrain the occupant. When I returned home I called the Bolt System manufacturer and asked if it was acceptable to use their system with the user in the chair. They explained to me that their testing was for securing the wheelchair only. They do not take any responsibility for securement and safety of the rider if they are in the chair. Here is why that makes good sense. Let’s assume that the chair and rider are properly positioned in a safe zone so the air bag that explodes out at 200 m.p.h. in a crash doesn’t injure the rider. Remember the kids that died in improperly positioned car seats. Now in a 30 m.p.h. crash a 150 lb. rider stretches the belts like a string of a bow with the force of 3,000 lb. The belts release their energy and throw the rider back into the back and seat with great force. That back must be strong and tall enough to catch the person’s back and head and not collapse. With all the seating and back combinations therapists may use it is not possible to test them all in combination. The bottom line is the bolt system is only tested for securing the chair.

So how can we transport a Bariatric user and chair. First, you must have the Bariatric person transfer to seating provided by the van manufacturer. There is not a testing standard for a person that is greater or equal to 450 lb. The person in a van seat will be several times safer than in the wheelchair. Why, if for no other reason than the securement points are not designed to handle the Peterbilt combination of a 350 lb. chair and a 650 lb. rider. Even with four rear hold down points, by splitting up the total mass of the rider and chair gives the user a much better survival chance. Next, secure the chair separately. We will supply optional chair tie down points on any new Boss chair when requested at the time of sale. There must be two sets of rear floor attachment straps to secure the chair to the floor. In testing we did in 1988 with standard size chairs and riders the first component that failed was the rear floor strap attachment points. These comments are only suggestions. You must follow the requirements of each of the component manufacturers in the chair, seating system and van restraint system.


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