A new strategy by WorkSafe Victoria aims to improve health and safety outcomes for healthcare and social assistance workers, a sector that accounts for almost 15% of the state’s workforce, with most of those workers in frontline roles. The industry also attracted the most claims for workplace injuries in 2018 and 2019, and has recorded six workplace fatalities in the past six years.
WorkSafe Victoria’s ‘Health Care and Social Assistance (HCSA) industry strategy 2020–23’ aims to drive industry-wide cultural change to make workplaces healthier and safer, reduce injuries and illness, and improve support for injured workers. WorkSafe Victoria collaborated with industry stakeholders to develop the strategy, which puts the health, safety and wellbeing of workers on par with the protection and care of patients and clients.
“Health care and social assistance work can be physically and emotionally challenging and there needs to be a greater understanding that making the health and safety of workers a priority will ultimately lead to better quality care for patients and clients,” said Julie Nielsen, Executive Director of Health and Safety at WorkSafe Victoria. “Putting workers’ health and safety at the forefront will also lead to more sustainable organisations and service delivery.”
The strategy will focus on high-risk sectors (hospital, residential care and home-based care) and the issues causing the most harm (hazardous manual handling, occupational violence and aggression, and fatigue). Nielsen stressed the importance of consulting with workers about health and safety risks which may be present at the workplace and ensuring that workers are encouraged to report any health and safety concerns or incidents.
“Navigating these hazards is not simply part of the job,” Nielsen said. “It will require a collective effort to embed a positive culture and prevention-led approach in every healthcare and social assistance workplace, but the industry’s rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates this is achievable.”
Collaborating with key stakeholders, WorkSafe Victoria strives to identify, plan and implement integrated programs and initiatives focused on workers in the highest risk sectors and workplaces. This will build on its recent intervention strategies, which have included an increase in inspector visits, a targeted engagement program and a public awareness campaign to reduce occupational violence and aggression. WorkSafe Victoria will also develop a monitoring and evaluation plan to measure the success of the strategy in driving improvement in the industry.
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