Staying safe on the job: Working in healthcare

Amid the global pandemic, the assumption of risk and illness for healthcare workers has exponentially increased. We’ve all been witness to the dedication of those in the medical profession over the last twelve months; performing to a high standard even with long hours, physically and mentally exhausting daily routines, and generally high-pressure and stressful work environments. The safety of medical staff is just as important to the individual workers as it is to the patients they tend to.

The obvious safety precautions working in hospitals, and at the homes of those who require care, come in the form of appropriate PPE and effective training. However, there are still a number of hazards with countless variables that have led to healthcare being a leader when it comes to personal injury claims.

51% of successful claims in the health and social assistance industry were for body stressing which is defined as “a collective term covering a broad range of health problems associated with repetitive and strenuous work” according to Comcare.

Medical staff work from various locations throughout their days and weeks which can lead to further difficulty maintaining a safe workplace.

In a fast-paced environment, it can be difficult to take the time to take a step back and assess a potential risk from every angle but where possible SafeWork Australia outlines the following optimal ways to manage risks. A big part is conducting risk assessments which seek to identify the following:

  • the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard
  • the likelihood of this harm occurring
  • how serious the harm could be

This kind of assessment helps you understand the ins and outs of a potential hazard and a framework of how to address it moving forward. Risk assessments also help shine a light on the required control measures for any given situation as things vary depending on factors such as the location of the incident, the seriousness and first consideration if the risk can actually be eliminated or only minimised. Below are just a few examples of the more common risks in healthcare and the control measures that should be considered in the workplace but are definitely not limited to this list.

Lifting, supporting, and moving patients

Assisting patients with the help of other doctors and nurses can be difficult enough let alone when caring solo for an elderly or unwell patient at their home. Having the right equipment such as electronic beds, that can be moved into a sitting position and chairs or hoists that assist with standing up is extremely important and would dramatically reduce the risk of injury when heavy lifting. Where possible, ask for assistance from colleagues and practice safe lifting techniques to ensure you are actively minimising the risk of injury on the job.

Medical equipment

Laser and X-ray machines can be found in any hospital or speciality care facility around the country and while they seem commonplace in the industry. There are rules and regulations that exist to protect those who operate and use these machines. Ensuring smaller equipment is stored safely with signage and at eye level as well as enforcing barriers during use can reduce the risk of falling objects and confusion for colleagues and patients.

Psychosocial risks

Mood disturbances and depression are commonly reported from those who work in healthcare due to the long hours, taxing schedules, and exposure to traumatic and upsetting events/sights. With added mental stressors come added body stress that can lead to musculoskeletal injuries and exacerbated conditions such as hypertension and tendonitis. Checking in with your colleagues, pulse-checking your own energy levels and taking your time off-the-job to wind-down and avoiding stressful situations can help to mitigate those risks. Seeking professional assistance after association with traumatic events/sights is also an important step in mitigating the impact and likelihood of injury.

Slips, trips and falls

In a high-pressure, fast-moving work environment, it’s easy to misstep. Ensuring the workplace is well lit, slip resistant flooring/mats are being utilised, and floor areas are clear from clutter where possible is a responsibility of healthcare facilities. As an employee, raising concerns around hazardous areas and ensuring your footwear and clothing are designed for your work environment are two ways to stay safe on the job.

Fatigue and shift work

It seems part and parcel of the job, but shift work can have adverse effects by disturbing circadian rhythms, sleep, and life outside the walls of a hospital or practice. On the surface, it may result in what feels like longer days and less patience, but over the long-term can increase the likelihood of insomnia and your ability to perform tasks at work safely. Where possible, avoid late finishes and early starts back-to-back, and ensure you’re prioritising sleep, nutritional meals, and job rotation to lessen fatigue on repetitive tasks.

At Gouldson, our priority has and always will be, making the claims process simple. We know injuries at work can be devastating physically, mentally, and financially without the added pressure of filing a claim. If you have recently suffered an injury at work, you may be eligible for workers compensation, and the team at Gouldson can help you with a free case review to get started.


Get specialised advice about your claim today, from one of our expert lawyers – totally free.

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