WA program tackles community healthcare violence
An inspection program aimed at redressing violence and aggression in community health care is being implemented by WorkSafe WA.
The program will focus on nursing professionals, health and welfare support workers and personal carers who work in clients’ homes or community settings, and will continue over the next six months in metropolitan and regional areas of WA.
WorkSafe Director Sally North said that inspectors would primarily look at how employers managed the risk of violence and aggression for workers.
“Managing the risks can include providing a means of communication for employees working in the community, training employees and assessing the risks of unpredictable behaviours and environments,” North said.
“Inspectors will visit community care service providers to examine the systems in place to prevent employee exposure to client aggression, and they will also look at whether information from previous incidents and injuries has been considered in implementing controls.
“Earlier WorkSafe inspection programs in this area have highlighted the need for employers to undertake risk assessments and clearly communicate risks before directing employees to work in community settings.
“The information provided to employees is critical to reduce the risk of exposure to injuries from violence and aggression, and relevant information from previous incidents must be communicated to employees.
“The statistics back the need to look closely at the sector, with incident rates for serious and severe lost-time injuries in the WA healthcare and social assistance sectors arising from assault and exposure to violence and aggression continuing to rise.
“Body stressing remains the most common injury risk to employees in the healthcare and social assistance sector; however, the incident rate of serious body stressing injuries in health care has decreased by 25% over the past five years.
“In contrast, the injury rate from incidents involving violence and aggression in the sector continues to rise, particularly serious injuries that result in five days or more off work.
“Employees exposed to violence and aggression can sustain physical injuries requiring time off work.
“But the subsequent mental stress, especially following repeated exposure to violence, typically takes much longer to heal and these long-term injuries can result in financial strain for workers, employers and the industry in general.
“WA is a keen participant in the national Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022, which identifies mental health conditions as a target work-related condition to address.
“The strategy also names health care and social assistance as a target industry due to the number of injuries in this sector resulting in one or more weeks off work.
“This inspection program aims to ensure that employers have all the information they need to provide and maintain safe and healthy workplaces for their employees.”
Further information on occupational violence and aggression and this inspection program can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.
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