Occupational violence is an incident where a worker is physically attacked in the workplace or during work related activities. It also extends to if a worker is threatened in a way that causes them to reasonably believe they are in danger of being physically attacked. With an ageing population, ensuring aged and other care workers are able to cope with the at times aggressive behaviour associated with some types of dementia or disabilities is an important issue for care providers. Recent data shows care workers represent more than 9 percent of NSW workers compensation claims with over 12,000 physical and mental claims made in the recent 3 year period. Addressing workplace bullying and violence be challenging yet SafeWork Australia provide recommendations.
Occupational Violence – Occupational violence covers a broad range of behaviours from assault to non-physical violence such as verbal abuse and intimidation. Aged care workers, due to the nature of their roles and the often fragile physical and mental state of residents, may be at an even greater risk of occupational violence than workers in other sectors. This behaviour can have a significant impact on the health, safety and welfare of workers and residents. Even the threat of violence can cause stress and emotional suffering. Occupational violence may also interfere with the delivery of services and lead to increases in insurance premiums and workers compensation costs.
In aged care, occupational violence is most commonly caused by residents and family members who exhibit violent behaviour. It may also be initiated by an individual with no connection to the workplace.
With an ageing population, ensuring staff are able to cope with the aggressive behaviour associated with mental illness is an important issue for aged care providers and work health and safety regulators.
As the majority of aged care nursing home facilities are owned and managed by large private companies, support from management is vital to maintaining best practice systems and keeping staff well trained. Establishing good safety systems and influencing change happens at the corporate level.
Caring for the residents while also ensuring a safe environment for team members is essential, and this needs to be fully acknowledged within management plans and risk assessments.
Under work health and safety legislation, aged care facilities have a duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace that is free from violence and the threats of violence. To meet these obligations and their duty of care to residents, an aged care facility must have policies in place to deal with all types of occupational violence, minimise the risk and raise awareness of the potential harm caused. Workers must also be provided with adequate information and training as part of their induction and through ongoing training programs.
Some points for consideration are:
- Ensure policies and procedures are in place
- Ensure staffing levels are adequate
- Identify workers who may be at higher risk
- Match worker skills and abilities to resident needs
- Ensure workers understand the role they have to play in reducing the risk
- Conduct a thorough assessment of all new residents
- Provide workers with appropriate information, instruction, and training to identify the risk factors associated with occupational violence and the precursors to violence and ensure they understand the role of the behaviour management plan and the complaints and grievance process
- Develop behaviour management plans for residents based on the outcomes of the assessment, and review these plans on a regular basis and/or following a significant incident
- Review and record residents behaviours
- Consult with workers, work health and safety representatives and supervisors to determine when and where issues of violence occur
For further information:
Source: SafeWork NSW
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