How Bed Rail Entrapment Occurs

The Dangers of Bed Rails

For many people, it is hard to imagine how a person can be trapped by a bed side rail in such a way that it causes serious injury or death. Yet, the FDA reports that more than 700 people have been hurt or killed in this way since the 1985. So, it is important that people understand exactly how bed rail entrapment occurs.

To that end, the FDA has put pictures of typical entrapments on its website. The pictures illustrate the most common danger zones associated with bedrails including:

  • Zone 1: Entrapment within the rail: this occurs when a person's head or other body part gets caught between the bars on the side rail.
  • Zone 2: Entrapment under the rail: people become entrapped under the rail when there is a space between the rail and the mattress. An elderly or disoriented person may get his or her head stuck in this space which can be fatal.
  • Zone 3: Entrapment between the rail and the mattress: this occurs when there is space between the mattress and the bed rail. So, when a person rolls over he or she does not fall out of bed but instead gets stuck in the space between the mattress and bed rail. An elderly, sick or hurt person may lack the strength to free himself and his cries for help may be muffled if his head is face down in the gap between the mattress and the bed rail.
  • Zone 4: Entrapment under the end of the rail: this occurs because of a design defect that has the bed side rail raised off of the mattress. Thus, it is easy to get caught in the space under the end of the rail.
  • Zone 5: Entrapment between split rails: sometimes the bed rails are not continuous on the same side of the bed. Instead, the rail has two or more distinct parts and there is a gap where they come together.
  • Zone 6: Entrapment between the rail and the headboard or footboard: There is often a significant gap between where the rail ends and where the headboard or footboard begins. This is another area where people often become trapped.
  • Zone 7: Entrapment between the mattress and the headboard or footboard: Mattresses that do not properly fit a given bed can create gaps where a person may become trapped resulting in injuries that are similar to those created by bed rails.

Zones 1 -4 account for most of the injuries and deaths from entrapment while zones 5-7 show possible other entrapment zones that may lead to injury.

In addition to the entrapment danger zones, it is important to think about the mattress and the bed. A mattress with a soft edge can lead to bed rail accidents as can a mattress that is too small and does not fit securely on the bed. Hospital beds, also known as bending and articulating beds can also create dangerous gaps when the bed is articulated and the rail remains straight.

In conclusion, there are many different ways in which a person may become entrapped in a bed with a side rail. It is important to review the FDA's pictures of typical entrapments and the recommended ways to prevent such accidents so that you and your loved ones remain safe should you need to be in a facility that uses side bed rails.


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