6 Typical Hazards in Aged Care Setting

6 Typical Hazards in Aged Care Setting

  • Prakash Bartaula
  • 18 June, 2024
11 Min Read

The six typical hazards in aged care settings are manual handling, environmental hazards, workplace violence, infection control, emotional and psychological hazards, and fatigue and burnout. Manual handling tasks can lead to musculoskeletal injuries. Environmental hazards like slippery floors and poor lighting increase accident risks. Workplace violence can occur from aggressive behaviors of residents or visitors. Infection control is vital due to the vulnerability of residents to diseases.

6 Typical Hazards in Aged Care Setting

Working in an aged-care setting can be incredibly rewarding, but it also comes with its fair share of hazards and risks. It’s crucial to identify and manage these dangers to ensure the safety and well-being of both staff and residents. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore six common hazards found in aged-care facilities and provide practical strategies to mitigate them.

hazards in aged care

Common Hazards and Risks in Aged Care

Aged-care workers face a variety of hazards and risks in their daily duties, ranging from physical strains to emotional and psychological challenges. Understanding these hazards is the first step towards creating a safer work environment.

Lifting and Moving

One of the most significant hazards in aged care is manual handling, which involves lifting, pushing, pulling, or moving residents or equipment. This physically demanding task can lead to musculoskeletal disorders like back injuries, sprains, and strains. Improper lifting techniques, lack of assistive devices, and inadequate training can exacerbate these risks.

To minimise the risks associated with manual handling, it’s essential to provide comprehensive training on proper body mechanics and lifting techniques. Additionally, aged-care facilities should invest in assistive devices like hoists, slide sheets, and transfer boards to reduce the physical strain on staff. Regular maintenance and inspection of these devices are also crucial to ensure their safe and effective use.

Environmental Hazards

Aged-care facilities can present various environmental hazards that can increase the risk of accidents and injuries for both residents and staff. These hazards may include slippery floors, poor lighting, cluttered walkways, and trip hazards. Wet or recently mopped floors, loose carpets or rugs, and exposed electrical cords can all contribute to slip, trip, and fall hazards.

To mitigate these risks, aged-care facilities should implement regular inspections and maintenance routines to identify and address potential hazards. Good housekeeping practices, such as keeping walkways clear and ensuring proper storage of equipment and supplies, are essential. Additionally, appropriate signage and warning labels should be used to alert staff and residents to potential hazards.

Workplace Violence

Unfortunately, workplace violence is a concern in aged care. This can include physical assaults, verbal abuse, and threatening behaviour from residents, visitors, or even co-workers. Factors such as cognitive impairments, mental health issues, or frustrations related to care can contribute to aggressive or violent behaviour.

To address this issue, aged-care facilities should implement a zero-tolerance policy for violence and provide comprehensive training on de-escalation techniques, conflict resolution, and crisis management. Effective communication strategies, such as active listening and empathy, can help diffuse tense situations. Additionally, adequate staffing levels and support systems for staff who experience violence or abuse are crucial.

Infection Control Hazards

Aged-care residents are often more susceptible to infections due to weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions. Proper infection control measures are essential to prevent the spread of infectious diseases within the facility.

Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of infections. Aged-care staff should receive training on proper hand-washing techniques and have access to hand-sanitising stations throughout the facility. Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, gowns, and masks, should be readily available and used appropriately to prevent the spread of infectious agents.

Effective cleaning and disinfection protocols are also crucial in aged-care settings. High-touch surfaces, shared equipment, and resident rooms should be regularly cleaned and disinfected using approved products and methods. Additionally, staff should receive training on proper waste management and handling of potentially infectious materials.

Emotional and Psychological Hazards

Working in aged care can be emotionally and psychologically demanding. Staff may experience stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue due to the nature of their work, which can impact their well-being and job performance.

Caring for residents with cognitive impairments, such as dementia, can be particularly challenging and emotionally draining. Staff may also experience grief and loss when residents pass away, which can take an emotional toll.

To mitigate these hazards, aged-care facilities should provide support systems and resources for staff, such as counselling services, employee assistance programs, and stress management training. Promoting self-care practices, such as regular breaks, exercise, and mindfulness activities, can also help staff cope with the emotional demands of their work.

Fatigue and Burnout

Long hours, shift work, and physically demanding tasks can lead to fatigue and burnout among aged-care workers. This can increase the risk of accidents, errors, and compromised care for residents.

Inadequate staffing levels and high workloads can contribute to fatigue and burnout. Aged-care facilities should ensure that they have sufficient staff to meet the needs of residents without overburdening employees.

Implementing strategies like reasonable workloads, adequate rest periods, and promoting a healthy work-life balance are crucial in addressing this hazard. Additionally, providing access to resources and support for managing stress and burnout can help staff maintain their physical and mental well-being.

Health and Safety in Aged Care

Maintaining a safe and healthy work environment in aged care is a shared responsibility between employers and employees. It’s essential to consult and collaborate to identify and manage hazards effectively.

Consult

Employers should consult with their employees and health and safety representatives to identify potential hazards and develop appropriate control measures. This can be done through regular meetings, inspections, and encouraging open communication.

During these consultations, employees should feel empowered to voice their concerns, share their experiences, and suggest improvements. Their input is invaluable in creating a safer work environment, as they are often the ones directly exposed to hazards on a daily basis.

Consultation

Employees should also actively participate in the consultation process by reporting hazards, suggesting improvements, and following established safety protocols. Their input and experience are invaluable in creating a safer work environment.

Encouraging a culture of open communication and fostering a sense of shared responsibility for safety can help ensure that hazards are identified and addressed promptly. Regular training and refresher sessions on safety protocols and procedures can also reinforce the importance of consultation and collaboration.

Risk Management Process

Effective risk management is crucial in aged care to identify, assess, control, and review potential hazards. This process should be ongoing and involve all stakeholders, including management, staff, and health and safety representatives.

Think about all workplaces

When assessing risks, it’s essential to consider all areas of the aged-care facility, including resident rooms, common areas, kitchens, laundry rooms, and outdoor spaces. Hazards can exist in any part of the workplace, and a thorough evaluation is necessary to ensure a comprehensive risk management approach.

Risk assessments should be conducted regularly, and any identified hazards should be prioritised based on their potential severity and likelihood of occurrence. Control measures should then be implemented to eliminate or minimise the risks, such as implementing engineering controls, administrative controls, or providing personal protective equipment.

Regular monitoring and review of the risk management process are also crucial to ensure that control measures remain effective and to identify any new or emerging hazards.

Health and safety legal duties

Both employers and employees have legal duties and responsibilities when it comes to health and safety in aged care. Understanding these obligations is essential for maintaining a safe work environment and avoiding potential legal consequences.

Employers

Who’s an employer?

An employer is a person or organisation that employs people under a contract of employment. This includes aged-care facilities, nursing homes, and other organisations that provide care services to the elderly.

Employers have a legal duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their work activities. This includes:

  • Providing a safe work environment: Employers must ensure that the physical workplace, equipment, and systems of work are safe and free from hazards that could cause harm.
  • Providing and maintaining safe systems of work: Employers must develop and implement safe work procedures and practices, and ensure that employees are trained to follow them.
  • Providing information, instruction, training, and supervision: Employers must provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training, and supervision to perform their duties safely.
  • Monitoring the health of employees and workplace conditions: Employers must monitor the health and well-being of their employees and the conditions of the workplace to identify and address any potential hazards.
  • Consulting with employees on health and safety matters: Employers must consult with employees and their representatives on matters related to health and safety, and take their concerns and suggestions into account.

Failure to comply with these legal duties can result in penalties, fines, and potential legal action.

Employees

Employees also have legal duties and responsibilities when it comes to health and safety. These include:

  • Taking reasonable care for their own health and safety: Employees must take reasonable care to protect their own health and safety while at work, and follow all safety instructions and procedures.
  • Taking reasonable care for the health and safety of others: Employees must also take reasonable care to ensure that their actions or omissions do not put others at risk, including co-workers, residents, and visitors.
  • Complying with reasonable instructions and procedures: Employees must follow all reasonable instructions and procedures related to health and safety, such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and following safe work practices.
  • Using personal protective equipment (PPE) as required: Employees must use and maintain any PPE provided by their employer, such as gloves, gowns, and masks, as required for their job tasks.
  • Reporting hazards, incidents, and injuries: Employees have a responsibility to report any hazards, incidents, or injuries to their employer or supervisor, so that appropriate action can be taken to address the issue.

By fulfilling these legal duties, employees contribute to creating a safer work environment and help prevent accidents and injuries.

Occupational Health and Safety – Your Legal Duties

Both employers and employees have legal duties under occupational health and safety (OHS) laws. These laws aim to protect the health and safety of workers and others who may be affected by work activities. Failure to comply with these legal duties can result in penalties and fines.

In Australia, the primary OHS legislation is the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) and the associated regulations. This legislation outlines the responsibilities of employers, employees, and other parties involved in the workplace.

Employers must comply with the WHS Act by providing a safe work environment, implementing risk management processes, and consulting with employees on health and safety matters. They must also ensure that employees receive adequate training and supervision, and that appropriate safety equipment and resources are provided.

Employees, on the other hand, have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, as well as the safety of others in the workplace. They must follow all reasonable instructions and procedures, use personal protective equipment as required, and report any hazards or incidents to their employer.

Both employers and employees can face significant penalties for non-compliance with OHS laws, including fines and potential imprisonment for serious breaches. It is crucial for all parties involved in aged care to understand and fulfill their legal obligations to ensure a safe and compliant work environment.

Workplace bullying

Workplace bullying is a form of harassment that involves repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees that creates a risk to their health and safety. This behaviour can take many forms, including verbal abuse, intimidation, humiliation, exclusion, or interference with work tasks.

Workplace bullying can have severe consequences for both the targeted individuals and the organisation. It can lead to physical and psychological harm, decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and a toxic work environment.

Aged-care facilities should have clear policies and procedures in place to prevent and address workplace bullying. This may include training programs, reporting mechanisms, and disciplinary actions for those who engage in bullying behaviour.

Hazardous Manual Handling

Hazardous manual handling refers to any activity that requires the use of force to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, or otherwise move, hold or restrain an object, person, or animal. In aged-care settings, manual handling tasks often involve assisting residents with mobility, transferring them from one location to another, or repositioning them in bed or chairs.

These tasks can put significant strain on the musculoskeletal system, leading to injuries such as back pain, sprains, and strains. Factors that can increase the risk of hazardous manual handling include awkward postures, repetitive movements, excessive force, and inadequate training or equipment.

To mitigate the risks associated with hazardous manual handling, aged-care facilities should implement safe work practices, provide appropriate training and equipment (e.g., hoists, slide sheets), and encourage employees to use proper body mechanics and lifting techniques.

By addressing these common hazards and implementing effective health and safety measures, aged-care facilities can create a safer environment for both staff and residents, ensuring high-quality care and promoting the well-being of all involved.

 

Prakash Bartaula

Joined : 5 April, 2024

I’m deeply passionate about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and dedicated to exploring its intricacies. Through research, communication, and writing, I aim to shed light on NDIS provisions and empower individuals with disabilities. Join me as we navigate the transformative potential of the NDIS together.

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