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Workplace Safety – Health Care & Social Assistance

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The health care and social assistance industry is thriving, employing more Australians than any other industry. In total, 12% of the workforce is employed in this area and this number is only set to expand as Australia’s population, particularly its aged population, grows.[1] Ironically, the Australians who have dedicated their careers to caring for others are at an unacceptably high risk of receiving an injury (or worse) themselves. For instance, paramedics experience the single most fatalities of any occupation and twice as many injuries as police officers.[2] In fact, the 17,565 accepted compensation claims in 2014 earnt this industry a spot on Safe Work Australia’s ‘priority’ list along with notoriously perilous industries like construction and agriculture.

A closer look

Many radically different occupations exist under the ‘health care and social assistance’ umbrella, which can be divided into four sub-industries:

  • Ambulatory Health Care Services: services in this sub-industry, such as GPs and community-based clinics, provide medical care to outpatients.
  • Hospitals: there are over 426,000 full-time staff employed in public and private hospitals throughout Australia.[3]
  • Nursing and Residential Care Facilities: Australia’s aged population is expected to more than double by the year 2057, making this sub-industry increasingly crucial.[4]
  • Social assistance: this sub-industry includes social workers trained provide social assistance to clients in areas such as housing or child care.[5]

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The Risks

Although this is a large and diverse industry, there are some features shared by all four sub-industries which can increase risk. Listed below are risk factors and some preventative measures that can be implemented to improve employee safety:

  • Exposure to hazardous materials: Workers may be exposed to toxic materials ranging from drugs to radioactive material to viruses. Employers ought to provide appropriate protective equipment, implement safe work practices and provide regular screening for conditions such as blood borne viruses.[6]
  • Slips, trips and falls: This risk can be easily mitigated by designing workspaces well, adding safety features such as non-slip flooring and putting systems in place so that risks such as tripping hazards or wet surfaces are avoided or properly marked.[7]
  • Manually handling patients: Patient lifting is one of the reasons that body stressing injuries account for over half of all workers’ compensation claims. Workers should be trained in safe lifting techniques, but electronic handling aids should still be used wherever possible.[8]

Shine Lawyers

If you are one of the many Australians who have been injured in your work as a healthcare or social services provider, get in touch with Shine Lawyers today for a no-obligation consultation on your options. Shine Lawyers assists with Workers’ Compensation claims on a No Win No Fee basis, to help workers get back on their feet and access the assistance they deserve.

[1] https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/industry_business/health-care-and-social-assistance

[2] http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/paramedics-have-the-riskiest-job-in-the-country-with-highest-fatality-rate-and-twice-the-injuries-of-police/news-story/ffca3ee76647ed6b96c6ce3125b00587

[3] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/hospitals/australias-hospitals-at-a-glance-2015-16/contents/table-of-contents

[4] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-statistics/population-groups/older-people/overview

[5] https://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag624.htm

[6] https://ama.com.au/position-statement/blood-borne-viruses-bbvs-2017 https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/industry_business/health-care-and-social-assistance

[7] https://www.comcare.gov.au/preventing/hazards/physical_hazards/slips,_trips_and_falls

[8]https://www.anmfvic.asn.au/~/media/files/anmf/vic%20branch%20policies%20and%20position%20statements/safe%20patient%20handling.pdf; https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/industry_business/health-care-and-social-assistance

Written by Shine Lawyers on . Last modified: May 17, 2018.

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