Aged Care

Australia’s aging population is a major transformation that will impact on both economic and social policy. The aged care industry is an industry on the verge of a great increase in the demands associated with the provision of health and disability services, and family and community care. With more Australians needing the facilities that aged care workers provide, there will be a greater strain on these provisions. These strains can expose aged care workers to an increase in the risks associated with their occupation.

INJURIES
The majority of workplace injuries in the aged care industry result from musculoskeletal injuries such as back injuries which are related to high risk manual handling tasks such as lifting and moving people and pushing patient trolleys.

Other causes of injuries within this industry are:


HAZARDS –WORKPLACE VIOLENCE

Workplace violence in the aged care industry is any incident where an employee is physically attacked or threatened in the workplace. This attack could come from fellow employees, patients/residents, family members or workplace intruders.

What sort of things could be considered as workplace violence?

  • someone threatening to hurt you
  • objects being thrown at you
  • pushing, shoving, punching, kicking
  • being touched or any other type of indecent physical contact
  • racial abuse
  • unwelcomed sexual comments

 

Hazard:
Workplace Violence
Common Causes:
Working alone or at night increases the risk of violence
Aggression from clients, residents and/or their family and friends
Intruders
Controls / Options to assist control:
Preliminary assessments of the residents
Reviewing the nursing care plan of a resident (medication, pain management)
Ensure that staff work in pairs with high risk clients
Provide training for staff concerning:

  • dementia and communicating with people who have dementia
    • the procedures for preventing and managing aggression, including defusing potentially aggressive situations
    • emergency response procedures to threatening situation

Evasive self-defence techniques
Public access (especially at night) is restricted to one main entrance
Walkways between resident buildings and parking areas are well lit and not surrounded by obstructions
External doors and windows are secured after dark, and checked by night staff

No cash or cheques are on site after office hours (indicate with signage)
Employees have a readily available method of raising the alarm or personal duress alarm
Night security patrols and nurses station to face the front gate
Visitors log book

 

MANUAL HANDLING 

Manual handling is the most common cause of injuries for employees working in aged care facilities, accounting for 58 per cent of all injuries. Nurses, carers, cleaners, laundry, maintenance, administration and kitchen staff are all at risk from manual handling injuries.
The most commonly injured part of the body is the back, followed by the shoulder, arm, hand and neck.
Statistics from the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission for the aged care industry show that strains and sprains made up three-quarters of all the workers’ compensation injuries that occurred.

Hazard:
Manual Handling (e.g. pushing, pulling lifting)
Common Causes:

Lifting/moving residents Adjusting beds
Attempting to catch falling residents Bending (making and moving beds)
Repetitive movements Lifting and pushing trolleys
Carrying ( trays, stacks of plates) Lifting boxes
Unloading delivered supplies Repetitive work (cutting, slicing)
Cleaning (vacuuming, windows etc) Over filled linen bags
Working in a stooped, awkward or over-reaching posture
Controls / Options to assist control:
Adopt a No Lift, No Injury policy and use lifters
Ensure beds are selected in consultation with staff, and routinely maintained
Provide staff training on safe use of beds
Use bed mover to move beds
Report all faults
Record and update, resident physical function in care plans
Check care plans for changes
Promote incident reporting
Training in good work practice
Improve workplace and load design
Use of appropriate mechanical aids (e.g. trolleys)
Talk to suppliers and see if loads can be delivered in small bags
Ensure furniture is fitted with wheels to allow pushing instead of lifting
Adequate staffing (e.g. 2 person transfers for unreliable or unsteady patients)
Apply safe design principles in the development of new facilities and equipment

 

STRESS

Workplace stress is a very real occurrence in the modern workplace, with the incidence of stress-related claims having risen dramatically in the last ten years. Workplace stress derives specifically from conditions in the workplace. These conditions may either cause stress initially or aggravate the stress already present from other sources. These may arise from the content of work, for example work which is monotonous or lacks variety, or too much or too little work to do. Work that results in a person feeling unable to cope and unsupported may lead to illness, injury and job failure.

Hazard:
Manual Handling (e.g. pushing, pulling lifting)
Common Causes:

Unrealistic work deadlines Shiftwork
Long work hours Job insecurity
Lack of job understanding Poor job placement
Hazardous working conditions Lack of job satisfaction
Working with sick, dying or injured patients Reduce staffing levels/hours
Repetitive, unstimulating work Interpersonal conflict
Poor communication between managers and employees
Controls / Options to assist control:
Look for signs of stress from other colleagues e.g. coming into work late, change of work habits, mood and personality
Monitor your working environment for signs of stress
Consult your employees on all workplace issues
Handle all complaints form employees and customers seriously
Provide training for employees on complaint resolution
Encourage an atmosphere of trust where people feel safe to come forward if
they feel stressed
Ensure adequate and appropriate staffing levels
Review skill mixes and ensure they are adequate to meet the workplace demands and client needs

 

Useful links

Fatigue

Slips and Trips

Infectious Diseases

Bullying

Note:
Many companies have been found in breach of their OHS obligations to employees. Take an informative look at the successful prosecutions by SafeWork SA

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Managing Risks in Aged Care
This brochure is designed to provide aged care facilities with specific information on the risk factors associated with: client aggression, opportunistic violence (violence that is committed for the sake of violence: no motivation is necessary or apparent and includes violence against particular cultures or individuals).

Sample Workplace Inspection Sheet
On completion of the inspection, allocate and record actions.

  • Forward the checklist to the facility manager/OHS Co-ordinator.
  • Sign the sheet once tasks have been completed.
  • Record identified hazards on the Hazard Log (include a review date).
  • Record long-term actions on the OHS Action Plan.
  • Monitor Checklist to ensure all actions have been implemented.

Acknowledgements:
SafeWork SA resource Aged Care Industry-Generic Hazards Register.
JobSafe SA acknowledges and thanks SafeWork SA for the use of its material.
Australian Government: Department of Health