WorkSafe WA has launched an inspection program looking at the issue of violence and aggression in organisations providing community health care services.
The program will focus on nursing professionals, health and welfare support workers and personal carers who work in clients’ homes or community settings and will continue over the coming months in metropolitan and regional areas of the State.
Inspectors would primarily look at how employers managed the risk of violence and aggression for workers, said WorkSafe WA director Sally North.
“Managing the risks can include providing a means of communication for employees working in the community, training employees and assessing the risks of unpredictable behaviours and environments,” North said.
“Inspectors will visit community care service providers to examine the systems in place to prevent employee exposure to client aggression, and they will also look at whether information from previous incidents and injuries has been considered in implementing controls.”
Earlier WorkSafe inspection programs in this area have highlighted the need for employers to undertake risk assessments and clearly communicate risks before directing employees to work in community settings.
North said the information provided to employees is critical to reduce the risk of exposure to injuries from violence and aggression, and relevant information from previous incidents must be communicated to employees.
“The statistics back the need to look closely at the sector, with incident rates for serious and severe lost-time injuries in the WA health care and social assistance sectors arising from assault and exposure to violence and aggression continuing to rise,” she said.
“Body stressing remains the most common injury risk to employees in the health care and social assistance sector, however the incident rate of serious body stressing injuries in healthcare has decreased by 25 per cent over the past five years.
“In contrast, the injury rate from incidents involving violence and aggression in the sector continues to rise, particularly serious injuries that result in five days or more off work.
“Employees exposed to violence and aggression can sustain physical injuries requiring time off work.
“But the subsequent mental stress, especially following repeated exposure to violence, typically takes much longer to heal and these long-term injuries can result in financial strain for workers, employers and the industry in general.”
North said WA is a keen participant in the national Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022, which identifies mental health conditions as a target work-related condition to address.
The strategy also names health care and social assistance as a target industry due to the number of injuries in this sector resulting in one or more weeks off work.