Healthcare worker’s safety has never been a more important issue. To keep people in their homes for longer we are constantly employing new methods. As we do the number of in-home carers also grows. Health Care Worker safety needs to be addressed and a professional solution likewise applied. As technology and medicine are advancing at such exponential rates, so too is the number of people who are spared the trials of hospitals. People now have the option to stay home for their medical and rehabilitation needs. For this to remain possible, we need to ensure that those administering the in-home care are safe and protected. If healthcare worker’s safety is not maintained, skilled and professional workers may well leave the industry. Forcing many people into already overcrowded hospitals. It’s never been more important to look after the physical and emotional well-being of healthcare workers.
If you’re unsure of how to identify lone workers you might find our blog What is a Lone or Remote Worker helpful to read. This blog highlights several of the terms used instead of lone worker. It will also help you identify who is likely at risk and some of the legalities around employer duty of care.
There are some simple steps that can be taken to provide a safer environment for healthcare professionals providing in-home care:
One of the key discussion points at this year’s National Comcare Conference was that WHS strategies need to place more emphasis on applying technological advances to their safety procedures. With smartphones in nearly every pocket, now is the perfect time to integrate high-quality and professionally monitored applications into the WHS procedures and solutions for industries such as health care. Smartphones provide a discrete and practical lone worker safety solution. Not only that, but in the modern bring-your-own-device era, they are also an affordable solution. Workers don’t need to carry around extra devices and employees don’t have to buy and replace those device when the become obsolete.
There are several reasons that working alone can increase potential risks. The risks of injury may always be there, but the risks of being without help or able to call for help rapidly increase. In fact, according to the Government of Western Australia’s Guidance Note on Working Alone, “the risk of injury or harm for people who work alone may be increased because of difficulty contacting emergency services when they are required.” When it comes to in-home care, there is no guarentee that the patient will be in a position to call for help either.
Working in the homes of mentally ill patients can increase the risks to healthcare workers. Likewise, risks can increase when patients have unexpected house guests, or even with patients who live in areas known to be unsafe. In fact, WA’s Guidance Note highlights the fact that “it is often contact with members of the public that presents the greatest risk.”
With a lone worker safety solution in place, the employee is provided with peace of mind that they can contact trained professionals at any time with the shake of their phone or the press of a button. Giving them the freedom to go in and out of patient homes, relieving any concerns for their personal safety. This allows them to provide much needed relief for hospitals and other healthcare providers. Not only that but it provides peace of mind to the loved ones of healthcare workers. They can rest assured that someone is looking out for their safety. One safety app is a very small price to pay for peace of mind as well as productive, happy employees.
When thinking of duty of care and healthcare, we often think of the responsibilities of healthcare workers to their patients. While this is also important, it’s equally as important not to overlook the duty of care to the healthcare professionals themselves. To execute their duty to their patients it’s important to make sure that healthcare professional can perform their jobs safely. That also means without fear or concern for their personal safety.
We can never eliminate all risks from a situation, it’s just not possible. But that’s why lone working employees should be provided with proper risk assessments as Brennan suggests. Providing the same sense of security to lone workers as those who are in a more supervised or supported environment. WSG provides a free lone worker rapid risk assessment template for those who need assistance in getting started. This was modelled on the work of Walter Brennan who is an authority on the subject (Brennan 2010). WSG also provides an adapted risk assessment action plan to help you change paper into procedures. Providing a safer working environment starts with understanding the risks as well as identifying them.