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Inspection program takes aim at aggression in residential aged care

A proactive inspection program to look at the management of violence and aggression against staff in residential aged care facilities will soon begin in Western Australia.

Violence against aged care staff considered 'part of the job' (Source: Shutterstock)
Violence against aged care staff considered 'part of the job' (Source: Shutterstock)

The program, run by WorkSafe WA, will commence next month and will focus on reducing musculoskeletal and psychological injuries due to workplace violence, and will continue over the following six months in metropolitan and regional areas.

WorkSafe Acting Director Sally North says the inspectors will look primarily at how employers prevent and respond to aggressive incidents and injuries, and how they are dealt with on a long-term basis.

She adds that over the past five years (2011-12 to 2015-16), violence and bullying accounted for nearly one third of all lost time injuries in WA residential aged care facilities

“An alarming 93 percent of the injuries in this category were classified as being assaulted by a person, so this program is very important,” Ms North explains.

“Inspectors [for the program] will proactively visit residential aged care facilities to assess the systems in place to prevent and manage incidents of violence and aggression.

“Where workplaces are found to require improvement, inspectors will provide guidance and take further action if necessary.”

Ms North adds that earlier WorkSafe inspection programs in this area have highlighted to employers the need to implement proactive and long-term control strategies to address the risk of injury from violence and aggression.

“These control strategies can include altering job design, educating carers and clients, promoting incident response and investigation, and planning refurbishments or new builds to address client aggression risks,” she says.

While the most common injury to employees in residential aged care is soft tissue injury, Ms North says the psychological impact of exposure to violence is harder to measure, especially where it is considered ‘part of the job’.

She also adds that the program coincides with a WorkSafe Victoria public awareness campaign launched recently aimed at addressing the issue of occupational violence and aggression in the health care sector.

“WA is keen to participate in the national Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022, and the Health Care and Social Assistance sector is one of the key industries being targeted due to the high number of serious injuries resulting in 60 or more days off work,” Ms North says.

“This inspection program aims to ensure that employers have all the information they need to provide and maintain safe and healthy workplaces for their employees.”

Further information on the management of aggression in residential aged care facilities inspection program can be obtained by calling WorkSafe WA on 1300 307 8777 or via their website.

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