Manual tasks – one, two, three… ouch!

If you work in aged care you’ve probably experienced some type of injury due to hazardous manual tasks or slips trips and falls.

These are common injuries in this line of work, the most common in fact, and workers in residential and aged care have a higher than average chance of being injured at work – most likely a manual handling injury.

Manual handling claims make up 36 per cent of all injury and disease claims in NSW and the aged care industry clocked up more than 5000 in the three years from 2011/12-2013/14.

Manual handling injuries account for the majority of claims in residential and aged care, and, reflecting the higher proportion of women who work in the industry; women between 40-59 years old represent the most claims.

SafeWork NSW recently wrapped up a pilot program targeting 24 small, medium and large nursing homes and found room for improvement in the following areas:

  • manual handling policies and procedures
  • investigating and identifying risks
  • preventative actions using higher level controls such as design and engineering controls
  • active involvement of workers in the development of policies, procedures and controls for hazardous manual tasks.

Tony Robinson, SafeWork NSW Director of Specialist Services, said further work will seek to engage management staff to improve key hazard controls such as creating effective policies and procedures, consultation with workers, injury investigation systems, and design and engineering controls.

“The project established that compliance was reasonable in lower level controls like training, however with injury rates what they are, clearly more needs to be done at a management level to recognise risks and establish action plans to reduce those incidents,” Tony said.

“The most frequently injured body parts, for staff who work frontline with patients, are the lower back and shoulders, so knowing this, consult with staff about which tasks are likely to cause injury and then take steps to provide a solution.”

The types of manual tasks considered ‘hazardous’ are those that involve:

  • repetitive or sustained force
  • high or sudden force
  • repetitive movement
  • sustained or awkward posture
  • exposure to vibration.

Hazardous tasks should be assessed according to risk level, which is the likeliness that hazard will cause injury, and the severity of potential or actual injury.

“If you are maintaining an up to date injury register, you will be able to see which types of activity have caused and are most likely to cause injury,” said Tony.

“Establish safe work systems for transferring patients, repositioning patients in bed, transferring patients from beds and chairs, transferring for toileting and bathing and assisting patients who have fallen.”

“This is labour-intensive work so you really need to consider complementing safe work systems with investments in equipment design particularly for tasks that create a high risk of injury.

“We are here to help. SafeWork NSW has resources that can assist in dealing with musculoskeletal pain and performing manual tasks safely.”

Visit our website for fact sheets, PErforM (Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks) workshops and free advisory visits or call us on 13 10 50.

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