October is Health and Safety Month and CGH will mark the event with poster displays, safety talks and free office set-ups.
CGH Back Injury Prevention Coordinator, Joan Kemp, said there were inherent risks associated with health care and social assistance.
“Healthcare and social assistance workers are a key risk group due to the very nature of the work they do on a daily basis,” Joan said. “Although hazards are present in every workplace and are a threat to everyone’s health and safety, workers in the healthcare and social assistance sector are reported as having one of the highest rates of work related injuries and illnesses, predominantly due to the regular people handling.”
Workers may be exposed to a range of hazards that can affect their health and well-being, depending on the services they are to provide, the location of the workplace and the clients being cared for. They work with highly toxic drug and chemical agents, perform physically demanding and repetitive tasks such as lifting patients, and are regularly exposed to workplace stress and violence, putting workers at an alarming risk for illness and injury.
Although it is possible to prevent or reduce worker exposure to these hazards, due to the nature of the work, the workers often sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of their patients.
Joan said healthcare and social assistance workers may work in designated facilities such as healthcare and residential facilities or within people’s homes.
“These variable workplace environments along with the fact that client services staff often work alone, can increase the risk to health and safety. Trends are also indicating that patients are getting older, sicker and heavier which these workers are also getting older.
“These factors are increasing the number of patients who will need lift assistance, raising the risk for workers suffering from musculoskeletal disorders caused by the increased demand of hazardous manual tasks. Workers in aged care have a higher than average chance of being seriously injured at work as a result due to hazardous manual tasks or slips, trips and falls.”
Joan said some of the hazards that health care workers faced could be quite serious. These may include:
§ blood borne pathogens
§ biological hazards
§ chemical and drug exposures
§ respiratory hazards
§ ergonomic hazards from lifting and repetitive tasks
§ laser hazards
§ workplace violence
§ hazards associated with laboratories
§ radioactive material and x-ray hazards
§ sharps injuries
Joan provided the following statistics between 2000 and 2015 from Work Safe Australia:
§ Body stressing represented more than half (51%) of workers’ compensation claims. Many of these were due to lifting people or moving beds, trolleys and other non-powered medical equipment.
§ Slips, trips and falls accounted for 19% of claims. Most involved stairs or falling over objects in high traffic areas.
§ Mental stress accounted for 8%, with more than half caused by other people.
She urged staff to see their Health and Safety representative for more information.