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Preventing injury to aged care staff

The number of workplace injuries has plummeted as a result of a staff injury prevention program implemented at a Western Australian aged and community care organisation.
Angela Summers (left) and Jenny Williams, of Amana Living, accept the ACSWA Health and Wellbeing Award, sponsored by Brett Waterman (centre) of Western United Financial Services.
Angela Summers (left) and Jenny Williams, of Amana Living, accept the ACSWA Health and Wellbeing Award, sponsored by Brett Waterman (centre) of Western United Financial Services.

The not for profit organisation, Amana Living, has reportedly achieved an incident rate that is among the lowest in the industry, as a result of its Injury Prevention Program, which recently won the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ category at this year’s Aged and Community Services WA (ACSWA) ‘Excellence in Care’ awards.

Not only has staff morale reportedly improved, but Amana Living is better able to retain competent, experienced staff, and ensure consistency in care delivery.

Ray Glickman, Amana Living chief executive, says it has been fantastic to see the number of workplace injuries plummet over the past five years.

“Not only that, but staff are being supported in their rehabilitation and return to work, whether the injury is work related or not,” Mr Glickman says.

As a result of the drop in incidents, there has been a 70% reduction in compensation claims in five years, with the number of claims in 2012/13 falling well below half the industry average.

Angela Summers, Amana Living health and safety manager, claims manual tasks are well recognised as causing the most common, as well as the most significant, injuries, in terms of time lost from work, through the aged care industry.

“Our approach to staff injury prevention is comprehensive. Its prime objective is to reduce the severity and frequency of injuries which may be attributed to manual tasks,” Ms Summers says.

If an employee does suffer an injury or serious illness, Amana Living’s Injury Prevention Program supports staff to ensure a safe return to work.

Features of the Amana Living Injury Prevention Program

Matching competency to a physical job description:

  • Each role has a physical job description, detailing the capacities required to carry out each task safely.
  • New employees undergo a pre-employment physical assessment to check they have the capacity to meet the physical job requirements.
  • Competency based manual handling training is mandatory, and all staff are reviewed on their competencies annually. 

Early intervention: 

  • Staff are encouraged to report injury or illness symptoms early so that adjustments can be made to prevent the problem from escalating.
  • Work practices and conditions may be reviewed: the workstation or work environment may be adjusted or redesigned and different practices demonstrated.
  • As well as physical issues, conditions such as depression and anxiety are monitored.

Safe return to work:

  • Should a staff member become unable to work due to illness or injury, the Injury Management Consultant offers the support they need to ease back into the job safely, in consultation with their health practitioners.
  • A staged return to work enables the staff member to earn some income at a financially difficult time. They may be offered a small number of shifts initially, lighter duties, adaptive equipment, or a position at an Amana Living facility closer to their home – whatever they need for a safe return to work.

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