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Aged Care Health And Safety Report Card

Aged Care 2Aged care workers in Australia are at a high risk of injury from performing manual handling tasks according to the latest Aged Care Workforce Survey.

More than 240,000 workers are employed in direct care roles in the aged care sector. Of these 147,000 work in residential facilities, and 93,350 in community outlets.

Personal Care Attendants comprise 68 per cent of the residential direct care workforce, while Community Care Workers comprise 81 per cent of the community direct care workforce.

The workforce is predominantly female, although males have increased their share in residential facilities. In both residential and community sectors, males now comprise 10 per cent of the direct care workforce.

The workforce is also generally older than the national workforce and ageing further, but the majority assess their health as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’.

Ensuring a safe workplace is important for care facilities because it reduces the time lost through injury or illness and enables employees to work at optimum levels for the required period of time.

Of the incidents reported by workers  more than 15 per cent of direct care workers had a work-related injury or illness during this period. The most commonly reported injuries are sprains/strains caused by activities such as lifting, pushing, pulling and bending (6% of all workers and 45% of those who reported), followed by chronic joint or muscle condition (4% of all workers and 26% of those who reported).

However, the next most common work-related injury or illness is stress or other mental condition which is reported by 3 per cent of all workers and 21 per cent of those who reported.

The study found that In 2012, more than three-quarters of aged care facilities reported a work-related injury or illness in the previous three months.

Due to the seriousness of the injury more than half of facilities had one or more employees on Workcover, which was 20 per cent higher than the previous census in 2007.

Compounding the negative impact of injury and illness on staff is the financial cost to the sector, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics has estimated to be around $59 million in 2012.

To reduce the rate of staff manual handling injuries, the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) conducted a national inspection program this year targeting health and safety compliance in residential aged care facilities.

The campaign was led by the Victorian WorkCover Authority but also involved work health and safety regulators in Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. Results from more than 350 workplace audits have been collated and a national report is currently being prepared for HWSA.

“Most facilities do need to improve how well they report and investigate manual task hazards and examine the risk factors to control them in future.

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