Health & Safety in Social Care

04 September 2020

Running a business in the care sector is increasingly popular. After all, since 2002 it’s estimated Ireland’s population has grown by around a million people.

However, the industry does present employment law and health & safety difficulties—especially once you hire employees. Responsibilities are twofold:

  1. As a business, you must ensure your employees are safe while they complete their role.
  2. An employee must respect their health & safety responsibilities while working.

As such, you’ll need to ensure you’re meeting these obligations. Which is a complex task, given the varying range of patients and scenarios you and your staff will come across.

To help you meet the requirements, across this guide we explain how to approach working in the industry.

Health & safety legislation in health and social care

The main legislation in Ireland is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005

This explains to you and your employees the obligations you must follow while at work. It’s important you make sure you understand these requirements. And to inform your staff of their personal responsibilities.

There are significant fines for any business that breaches Irish health & safety regulations.

The legislation highlights there are several considerations your business can monitor to maintain high standards in health & safety for social care. Such as:

  • Managing and organising departments across your business for safe working.
  • Following requirements to maintain safety at work.
  • Identifying your responsibilities.
  • Identifying employee responsibilities.

Specifically from your side as an employer, you’re responsible (where it’s reasonably possible) to ensure the health & safety of your:

  • Others—that can include those you’re supporting, plus their visiting family and friends.

Ensuring safety in health and social care will take the following steps. You should provide:

  • A working environment that’s safe.
  • Systems of work that are safe.
  • Sufficiently qualified employees who can complete their social care roles to a high standard.
  • Working equipment that’s safe and up to industry standards.

Ultimately, if you’re in the social care industry you must take into account the health & safety for staff, members of the public, and the service users.

As a result, risk analysis, incident reporting, and high levels of management analysis are central to maintaining health & safety standards.

The most common health & safety dangers

There are three types of common injuries. And employees must be aware of when going about their job. These are:

  1. Injuries caused by handling, lifting, or carrying.
  2. Slips, trips, or falls.
  3. Physical assault or violence.

Some types of injuries a social care worker may face require immediate attention. Sharp object injuries are of particular concern, due to the possibility of injury or illness they pose.

As an employer, you must provide guidelines for such an outcome. This is for the following reasons:

  • If the sharp object is contaminated with blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B or C. For example, through an accidental puncture wound from a needle.
  • If the employee receives a sharp object injury and there’s seroconversion (a disease becomes detectable in their bloodstream).
  • Due to a serious injury that requires reporting and/or hospitalisation.

Appropriate training, hiring qualified staff, and providing documentation on proper conduct at work can help lower the risks of any incidents.

Social care worker health & safety responsibilities

It’s important your employees understand their health & safety requirements while at work.

They must look after their personal safety. But, just as importantly, they must ensure others are safe, too.

And by others, this means their patients—and any colleagues in the working environment. As well as any family or friends who visit a patient.

However, the type of working environment can vary, as social care can involve:

  • District nursing.
  • Nursing agencies.
  • Community physiotherapy.
  • A health visiting team—direct to a customer’s home.
  • Support workers.
  • Children’s community nurses.
  • Community midwifery.

Due to the wide amount of working situations, it means your employees must consider their roles carefully.

As your staff will often have to deal with individuals struggling with mental and physical difficulties. Along with varying working environments and situations.

So, it’s important employees from your business provide the correct support. The responsibilities of a social care worker in health & safety include the following:

  • To take reasonable steps to ensure personal safety.
  • To take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of others in the workplace.
  • Adhere to your policies and procedures.
  • Not to act in a way that could cause accidents or ill health.

Social workers will consistently work with individuals with different requirements for their care and support. So, it’s essential that any activities with them don’t create undue risk.

You can help your employees understand their commitments by offering training—if necessary.

For example, you can offer personal management skills. But you can also ensure you hire experienced and qualified members of staff.

But additional training can help them identify potential hazards around their working environment.

For example, if there’s a frayed carpet that could lead to a dangerous fall for a colleague or the patient. It may seem like an insignificant detail, but it must be reported—it’s important your staff understand the steps they can take to do so.

Finally, compassion is essential in social care. You should look for this personality attribute when taking on new employees.

Staff aware of their surroundings, and with the capacity for due diligence in all of their tasks, will help to reduce the risk of harm to themselves, colleagues, and their patients.

Tasks that require special training

Health & safety in health and social care does require unique skills—training can help to provide these.

There are often special requirements employees must take care of. This can include:

  • The use of specialist equipment, such as hoists and lifts.
  • Medication and the guidance that controls prescriptions—or the administration of the medication to those needing support.
  • Providing assistance when moving an individual.
  • The administration of first aid, when it’s a requirement.
  • Handling emergency procedures. These can vary, such as a:
    • Building damage.
    • An individual has a serious accident.
  • Handling food (and preparing it) in a way that meets health & safety standards.

It’s essential to make sure social workers have the competence to complete their job. So you should look to ensure each employee has the appropriate abilities.

Lone working risk assessment in social care

It’s important to perform a risk assessment for every working situation your social care staff face. This will ensure dangers to personal safety are at a minimum.

And that’s particularly the case for lone workers. As a result, you should follow this procedure and carry out a five-step risk assessment:

  1. Inspect and observe the working environment to identify risks.
  2. Make a decision on what dangers are present and how a worker may be put in harm’s way.
  3. Perform an evaluation of the risks and take steps to limit them (i.e. establish precautions).
  4. Record any significant findings—this is a legal requirement. That includes the hazards you identify and how lone workers may face harm. Finally, include details on how you can control the risks.
  5. Regularly review your risk assessment and update it where necessary. You may need to hire new employees and purchase new equipment to do so. However, it’s essential to maintain high standards in the social care industry.

Need more help?

We can help you with any of your health & safety requirements, no matter the line of social care you’re in. Call us today for support: 1890 252 923.

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