Care workers’ health and safety

Home care providers take care of the welfare of their customers, but what about their own staff’s health and safety? Care workers are the most valuable asset of the home care companies and managers should ensure that their staff are healthy, they have proper equipment, ergonomics is taken into consideration and they feel safe at work. 

Carers’ health and safety is the third theme of a series of blog posts about carers expectations for their managers. 

 

Physical and Mental Health

Sickness presenteeism, in other words, going to work even though one’s state of health is poor enough to justify sick leave, is prevalent among three-quarters of health care providers (source: Al Nuhait etc. 2017). So why do we insist on going to work while sick?

The most common reasons are not wanting to burden co-workers, a feeling of duty towards patients, and avoiding an increased future workload caused by absence. However, working while sick puts clients at risk, decreases productivity, increases the probability of medical errors and is a risk factor for several negative health outcomes among the health workers themselves, such as depression and burnout.(Source: Al Nuhait etc. 2017

Employers can proactively prevent the amount of sick leave by ensuring staff have good instructions on how to avoid infections, providing flu injections, encouraging the staff to take care of their physical condition, and ensuring the employers get enough time for rest and recovery. When a care worker is sick, the carers should have instructions about staying at home and prioritising taking care of themselves first. 

 

Equipment and Ergonomics

When looking at home care groups on Facebook we saw a popular post where a carer posted a picture of his hands that were swollen and red, and asked his fellow colleagues if they’ve had the same kind of problems. The discussion was filled with hundreds of comments, pictures and advice. Many carers were even able to name it as dermatitis, in other words a skin inflammation that can be caused by an allergic reaction from items such as latex gloves. (source: HealthLine).

Allergies and working conditions should be taken into consideration when choosing equipment for carers. Managers should ensure carers have proper equipment to do their job and they know about health and safety.

Carers should also be taught the ergonomic ways of for example lifting a customer. Manual handling courses focus on teaching how to perform the task of heavy lifting. Some heavier clients might need two people to move them, and it’s the manager’s job to ensure this when doing the rotas. For a carer, it’s important to inform their manager if they feel a client is too difficult to handle by themselves.

 

Safety

When an accident happens in work, do your carers know what to do?

We witnessed a carer asking for help on Facebook after hitting his head at work. The carer got nausea for several days and asked two days later on Facebook if he might have a concussion.  He should have known to see a GP rather than having a peer consulting in Facebook. The carer probably felt he couldn’t get the help or take time off to get checked. You can support your employees to get needed help in these kind of situations.

As an employer, help your carers to know what to do when accidents happen or if the staff feel unsafe with certain customers. Ensure the staff know the procedure and have the emergency contact information.

 

Finally

When you take care of your staff’s health and safety, they will feel better and be more productive. Showing how much you care of them increases trust and makes it easier to take care of the clients. Ensure your staff’s health and safety by taking care of the following things:

  1. Give thorough instructions on how to avoid infections
  2. Provide flu injections for the staff
  3. Support physical well-being by creating fun activities or competitions
  4. Ensure staff will have enough rest and recovery 
  5. Make sure employees don’t come to work when they are sick
  6. Take allergies and working conditions into account when supplying work equipment
  7. Provide proper training for staff about heavy lifting and ergonomics
  8. Ensure enough help when lifting heavy or difficult customers
  9. Give instructions on what to do when accidents happen or carers face a dangerous situation.
  10. Ensure every carer has the emergency contact and GP information in their phone.

 

Source:

Al Nuhait, M., Al Harbi, K., Al Jarboa, A., Bustami, R., Alharbia, S. Masud, N. Albekairy, A. & Almodaimegh, H. (2017). Sickness presenteeism among health care providers in an academic tertiary care center in Riyadh. Journal of Infection and Public Health, 10(6), 711-715. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jiph.2016.09.019

 

Read the other blog posts about carers expectations for their managers: