Manual Handling Hazards in Aged Care

Manual Handling Hazards in Aged Care

Manual handling is an inevitable part of aged care. However, it’s important that this is done safely and correctly so that no one is put at unnecessary risk. In the aged care sector, manual handling is referred to as the “moving and handling” of a load which can either be a person or an object.

In aged care facilities, manual handling tasks are physical in nature and include carrying, moving, lifting, holding, pushing, lowering, pulling, and restraining. Manual handling in assisted living is the support given to older people who need assistance in their own homes or who can no longer live at home.

The aged care industry relies on personal care workers, nurses and physio experts to provide care to the elderly. Care workers carry out the following high-risk tasks:

  • Wheelchair pushing
  • Assisted walking, lifting, or standing
  • Lifting equipment such as wheelchairs, trolleys, and beds
  • Lifting, supporting, and moving patients

Aged care workers face a variety of manual handling hazards because of transporting patients from one location to another. These tasks are completed either by hand or using “bodily force”. However, aged care workers can employ the use of specialist technology or mechanical aids to make work easier.

According to a report published by the NSW Center for Work Health and Safety,  healthcare workers should not overstretch or overburden their bodies while carrying out their duties as this can lead to musculoskeletal injuries. 

frail care worker helping lady with crutches

5 Common Manual Handling Hazards in Aged Care

Walking through the workplace, having discussions with workers, and regularly checking through injury records is the best way to identify risks and hazards in aged care facilities. Workers face a variety of risks, including;

  • Workplace violence and aggression
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Muscular stress from handling tasks
  • Psychosocial hazards where aspects like moving people, low job control, manual handling injuries, and poor workplace relationships can cause stress responses

Manual handling for aged care doesn’t come without risks and safe work procedures should be adapted at all times. Here are the most common manual handling hazards in aged care:

  • Physical stress that results from lifting, supporting, or moving patients
  • Physical stress from moving medical equipment like wheelchairs, beds or trolleys
  • Utilising incorrect postures while handling patients
  • Lifting or moving heavy medical equipment
  • Potential violence from patients who are under stress or are experiencing confusion  

Physical injuries are one of many manual handling hazards in aged care. When care facilities don’t provide workplace training then workers may be subject to a strenuous work environment. This can lead to lifting using incorrect techniques, performing tasks with incorrect postures, poor movement patterns, and excessive lifting or moving of heavy objects. 

Research findings by Safe Work Australia state that there were approximately 114,100 serious claims of work-related injuries in Australia in 2018. The findings further state that there has been a steady increase in fatalities from the years 2003 to 2019.  

Incorrect manual handling techniques come with risk factors like back injuries, abdominal hernias, ligament damage, prolapsed discs, and other injuries that affect the muscles, cartilage, tendons, and nerves.

These injuries affect work health as well as everyday life. To avoid them, manual handling training is essential for aged care workers. With proper health and safety training and precautions, safe work practices will be used and potential hazards won’t be a concern.

aged care employee helping eldery person with walker

How to Prevent Manual Handling Hazards for Assisted Living

The best way to prevent injury is through proper training. It’s important to use the proper manual handling techniques when completing these activities. 

Some of the most common techniques, include:

    1. Safe lifting techniques: to avoid risk and strain on the body, aged care workers should not exert force from the back but ensure the spine is straight and abdominal muscles are engaged when lifting. Ideally, this is done in a semi-squat position.
    2. Pushing of heavy objects: pushing is a safer way of moving heavy objects as it avoids the repetitive movements caused by lifting and pulling. When pushing, create a broad base of support that will allow for the correct use of lower limbs. 
    3. Pulling when necessary: Pulling is another common manual task in aged care. When pulling, distribute body weight equally and initiate movement from the lower limbs of the body. 
    4. Use equipment where possible: Aged care facilities should consider the use of mechanical aids and equipment such as slide sheets and grab trails to promote client mobility. Installing a ceiling hoist will also make the movements of patients easy and will eliminate manual handling. This will reduce the need for lifting, pulling, and pushing. 

How Can Manual Handling Risks Be Reduced in Aged Care?

To provide the best aged care and promote better work health, staff manual handling training should be implemented. Employers should provide the necessary training for employees as this will help them meet specific needs and carry out manual handling tasks safely.

This training can be handled in a variety of ways, with the most popular way incorporating blended learning. For instance, Cloud Assess’ aged care training courses can be used. Adopting these safe training courses will reduce liability and increase workplace safety. Even better is the fact that training is likely to improve overall patient satisfaction. 

Next read: If you need some help training your staff, check out our tried and tested methods

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