Staying safe in aged care

While the health and safety risks of working in the community and aged care sector may not seem as prevalent as in industrial and manufacturing sectors, there are concerns that governments and local bodies wish to address.

According to the Department of Health’s most recent census of community aged care outlets, half of all outlets reported injuries in the workplace during the three months leading up to the census. While only 12 per cent of workers reported injuries to themselves, this highlights the importance of safe practices, even in industries that may not appear as outwardly dangerous.

Sprains and strains common

Outlets reported sprains and strains as the most common injuries in the community aged care workplace, which is a result echoed in the responses that workers gave to the census. Of those outlets that reported injuries, 56.1 per cent said that they’d experienced this type of issue. Among workers who reported injuries, this was 43.2 per cent.

While workers report less injuries than the outlets themselves, it is vital to make sure employees are well-equipped. Outlets and workers both listed lifting, pushing, bending and pulling as one of the main causes of injury in the community aged care sector. Using an appropriate trolley could minimise this risk, by allowing employees to shift heavy loads of equipment and move items more quickly and safely.

Another piece of equipment that could assist employees who need to raise items could be a lifting trolley, which can use hydraulic lifts to take the strain out of workers’ backs and legs.

Stopping the falls and crashes

Two more of the most common injuries experienced in this industry are falling and incidents where workers are struck by or have accidents with vehicles. One-quarter of outlets that reported workplace incidents said falls had occurred, which is an issue that should be addressed with appropriate rails or grips for people to hold onto for stability.

Another prominent cause of workplace injury is people being hit by vehicles. Safety barriers offer a suitable solution for this issue, and can separate workers from areas in which vehicles operate.

Whether they are transport vans or forklifts to move furniture and other large items, installing barriers will also allow employees and residents of aged care facilities to safely move about with minimal risk of collision with a vehicle.

Is education the answer?

In an interview with Australian Ageing Agenda (AAA), WorkSafe WA senior inspector Kathryn Jones said that handling risks for WA care facilities were generally managed. They audited 25 facilities throughout the state, and only three were given improvement notices.

Ms Jones said that in most cases, smaller lapses in health and safety are easily resolved through advice and teaching health and safety to those involved.

This is echoed by Jenny Williams of Amana Living, a company which won the 2014 Health and Wellbeing Award at the Aged and Community Care Services WA (ACSWA) Excellence in Care awards. Also speaking to AAA, Ms Williams stated that a five-year old injury prevention programme has seen worker compensation claims go down by 70 per cent – one of the best results anywhere in the industry.

“It’s very strongly reinforced to all staff about what safe practice is and what good practice is to make sure that they keep themselves and our clients safe,” Ms Williams said to the publication.

Safety equipment, as well as education, are clearly two vital issues to focus on to improve conditions and reduce injury in the community and aged care sector.