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INSIDE THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2007

Products & Services

 

Better roll with the right caster

by Mike Titizian

The type of casters and wheels on a rolling cart, or mobile stand, make all the difference in the world. For thousands of years, mankind has known that wheels can make a job easier. What may seem to be an easy job in pushing, pulling, and maneuvering medicine-dispensing carts, can indeed tire out most healthcare practitioners. A day in the life of a med-cart cart will see it roll from a central supply depot, where it would be traveling over a linoleum smooth hospital corridor, then over tile flooring of a kitchen or cafeteria, to rolling on low pile carpet in a nursing home while fully loaded with medicinal supplies. So what’s the best choice of casters for carts and mobile stands?

Choosing the right caster requires an assessment of the load to be moved, the condition of the floor surface, and environmental factors. In addition, ergonomics, ease of maintenance, and noise, are important things to consider when selecting a caster. The rated load of a caster is the maximum weight that may be imposed on it for manual operation. The weight includes the cart system and its total load to be transported. The load per caster is calculated as total gross load divided by the number of casters affixed to the cart system (less the number of casters that may not be in contact with the ground while the cart is in motion over uneven floor conditions). For most med-dispensing carts, minimum loads of 250 lbs per caster will suffice. This translates into a fully loaded cart of a thousand pounds being pushed and pulled all day long.

Having satisfied the load capacity per caster, what about the wheels? In general, the selection criteria include the choice between hard or soft tread wheels, and having flat surface or crown tread profile. Choice of bearings must also be considered. Bearing choices include sealed precision ball, plain bore, or roller bearings. Precision sealed bearings are not only maintenance free (whereas all other types of bearings require some lubrication maintenance), but facilitate lower resistance force required to start and keep rolling the cart system on any floor condition. Harder wheels roll easier, but tend to emanate more noise than softer tread wheels. Crown tread profile wheels maneuver more easily than flat tread wheels. There are now newer composite materials on the market that offer both the rolling ease of hard tread wheels, along with the quick, quiet, and clean properties of soft tread wheels that require no maintenance. Wheel and bearing selections are intertwined. The better the choice of wheels to be used, the more the ergonomic needs of the caregiver’s job in pushing, pulling, and maneuvering a fully loaded medical cart will be fulfilled.

The optimum choice of casters for carts and mobile equipment in healthcare environments feature sealed precision bearing construction in both the caster swivel head and bearing of the wheel. This composition facilitates noiseless and easy maneuvering of objects, together with no maintenance requirements. The choice becomes more complicated however, in wash down applications, sterilization processes, and when autoclave conditions are required. Other considerations in caster selection include functionality of wheel brake, swivel lock, or both; foot operated directional lock, integrated tread guards, and mounting options. When Ezekiel invented the wheel some 3500 years ago in the hills of Mesopotamia, he had no idea how critical it was to the day-to-day use of carts in healthcare applications.

Mike Titizian is general manager at Colson Caster Limited, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. To reach him, email: titizian@colson.ca.  


Click any link below for more great cart information:

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