This industry includes:
- hospitals, medical, pathology and allied health services
- aged, disability and other residential care
- child care
- some forms of social assistance services such as community health centres.
Health Care and Social Assistance (HCSA) is one of the industries identified as a national priority for prevention activities in the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy (external link).
Occupations in this industry include:
- personal carers and assistants
- midwifery and nursing professionals
- cleaners and laundry workers
- welfare support workers.
Most common hazards, injuries and solutions
Over half of all injuries in this industry relate to muscular injury, mental stress and slips, trips and falls. Workers in this industry have a higher than average chance of being seriously injured at work due to:
- hazardous manual tasks
- slips, trips and falls
- workplace stress
- occupational violence and aggression (OVA).
Hazardous manual tasks
- lifting, supporting and moving patients
- bending, twisting or reaching when working with children
- handling trolleys or wheelchairs.
It’s important when moving patients to:
- assess the patient’s level of dependence or ability to assist
- select the safest moving method
- use assistance: either mechanical (hoists, slide sheets) or a co-worker.
Slips, trips and falls
These are often caused by:
- wet or greasy floors
- cluttered or poorly lit work areas or passages
- uneven or poorly maintained floor surfaces
Some solutions to consider:
- install slip-resistant surfaces on stair treads, ramps and on other hazardous walking or working surfaces
- make sure workers wear non-slip footwear.
If you’re visiting patients at home, assess potential hazards in their home environment.
Have reporting processes in place so workers can report safety issues and they can be fixed as soon as possible.
Schedule and record regular inspections and maintenance of all work areas and all equipment.
Occupational violence and aggression (OVA)
OVA includes a broad range of actions and behaviours that can create a risk to the health and safety of workers. These are often described as ‘acting out’, ‘challenging behaviour’ or ‘behaviours of concern’.
Examples of OVA include:
- biting, spitting, scratching, hitting, kicking
- pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing
- throwing objects, damaging property
- verbal abuse and threats
- using or threatening to use a weapon
- sexual harassment or assault.
Control measures to consider include:
- designing the workplace to ensure safe spaces for workers, safe storage and duress systems
- having written work procedures and protocols that clarify behaviour expectations
- implementing training programs based on your workplace’s needs and appropriate to the needs of workers and the client group involved
- ensuring effective and constructive two-way communication, incident reporting and investigation involving workers, health and safety representatives and management to address hazards as they arise.