Creating a hazard-free workplace is something that all employers and employees should aim to achieve – for plenty of reasons.
From an economic point of view alone, workplace injuries cost the Australian economy more than $60 billion every year according to Work Focus Australia. And then there are the social, organisational and personal impacts on communities, businesses and individuals, which can be quite damaging.
In the aged care and child care industries workplace hazards can put both staff and vulnerable individuals who are in their care at risk.
If you are working in aged care or child care (or intend to), these top tips for creating a hazard-free workplace can help you avoid trouble. The below are focused on hazards specific to caring for children as well as aged residents, though you may also be interested in general health and safety management at work.
Take the point of view of those in your care
Whether it’s for young children or aged residents with limited or compromised movement, creating a hazard-free workplace in care environments means putting yourself in others’ shoes. Look out for hazards like low-lying corners or power points (for children), or narrow hallways and heavy doors (for elderly) which may not seem obvious to average, younger adults.
Manage chemicals and other potentially dangerous products
Cleaning products and medicines, along with any sharp, heavy or other potentially hazardous items should be securely stored away and out of reach. It may also be necessary to lock these items and keep keys in a safe and secure location.
Space is an important aspect to manage when ensuring a hazard free workplace. In all workplaces open space that is free from trip hazards and falling objects is important. Conversely, in the case of child care, long corridors that are open can encourage running – so it’s wise to break these up with barriers to facilitate walking.
Identifying risk and reporting
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of managing workplace hazards is to be aware of them every day at work. Most child care and aged care organisations will require you to complete a daily risk management assessment, which will help minimise the number of threats to staff and clients. You’ll find various examples of these here.
If you become aware of a hazard in your workplace, you should always report it to your supervisor or health and safety representative as soon as possible, as well as take any steps to minimise anyone getting hurt without putting yourself at risk.
Once a hazard has been identified, your supervisor will take the steps to fix the issue so that you can continue to do your job safely. As a team you and your colleagues and employer should always prioritise the safety of the workplace.