Health Care and Social Workers are one of the most vulnerable group for violence and abuse. They work alone or/and visit rural areas, and visit residential facilities or people’s homes. This increases the risks to their health and safety, and well-being.
They are in a major risk group due to the nature of their work. These workers are usually exposed to a range of hazards that can affect their safety, health and well-being and this depends on the following factors:
- The type of services they provide
- The location of the workplace
- The people they are exposed to
Some of the hazards they are exposed to are: manual handling, repetitive tasks and fatigue, workplace stress, bullying and violence.
Identifying hazards and risks
The following steps can help to identify potential hazards in the health care and social assistance workers:
- Observe and inspect the workplace to identify any risks
- Review the tasks that involve working with hazards, such as chemicals and sharps
- Ask workers and others about the challenges they have encountered at the workplace, and
- Reviewing accident/incident and injury/illness records, including near misses.
Some of the common hazards and risks in this industry are:
- Ergonomic hazards from lifting, supporting and moving people and repetitive tasks
- Biological and chemical hazards
- Medical equipment like lasers and x-rays
- Workplace violence, bullying and harassment
- Work-related stress
- Fatigue and shift work, and
- Slips, trips and falls.
While identifying hazards, we can consider:
- The workplace that workers may be exposed to
- The hazards they might encounter
- The types of work they may be undertaking.
- Methods for risk management
Risk assessment should include below elements.
- The nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard
- The likelihood of this harm occurring, and
- How serious the harm could be.
A risk assessment is the process to determine what action should be taken to control the risks and how sooner the action needs to be taken. One should implement the most effective control measure that is practically reasonable in the circumstances.
As per hierarchy of control, we have to ensure if the risk can be eliminated in the first place. For example, to avoid back injury, if possible and practicable, have patient move on their own to eliminate manual handling risks.
Elimination is not possible in most of cases in reality, and hence they must minimise the risk, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Managing the risk should be done as per the hierarchy of control measures. The hierarchy is always considered from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest.
Substitute means changing the substance as using a safer chemical will isolate the risk from workers. For example, zones around hazardous medical equipment, and engineering controls. Utilising lifting equipment to move patients/lift in order to minimise risks of manual handling injuries.
If a risk still exists, you must apply administrative control measures. Administrative controls include:
- Scheduling workers appropriately
Personal protective equipment is used to control any uncontrolled risks. It is extremely necessary to provide and, wherever relevant, maintain any necessary PPE. Biological and chemical hazards defines the requirement for workers to wear gloves, eye protection, face masks and protective clothing.
Administrative controls and PPE are usually considered the least effective ways to minimise risks because they do not control the hazard and rely on human behaviour.
The strategy for control involves the combination of control measures that should be used where a single control is not enough to minimise the risks. Therefore, all implemented controls should be monitored and reviewed to ensure they remain effective.
Some of the controls could be:
- All visits must be logged
- Pre and Post Visits summary sharing with the Supervisor.
- Panic Alarm in case of any emergency
WHS and Training Compliance Solutions Pty Ltd, offering WHS training to all industries, including Bullying and Harassment and Workplace Violence. For more information contact us.
WHS and Training Compliance Solutions Pty Ltd offering online and onsite WHS training to training to all industries, including Bullying and Harassment and Workplace Violence.
- Fatigue Management
- WHS for Managers and Supervisors
- WHS Committees
- Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid
- Workplace Resilience
- Workplace Bullying and Harassment
Contact us for further info on our WHS and Mental Health First Aid training courses.