Safety priority in aged care

OHS Checklist will reduce risk for aged care nurses

NSWNA officials and members are developing an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Risk Identification Checklist specifically for the aged care sector.

The Checklist, which is in draft form and has yet to be piloted, will enable NSWNA members to examine whether staffing and skills mix allow staff to perform their duties safely, on a shift-by-shift basis.

The aim is to make the Checklist simple, valid, reliable and easy for busy staff to use.

The Checklist would measure some key indicators of risk. The NSWNA wants to look at the work demands on nurses relative to the acuity levels of residents, especially given those acuity levels are likely to change and these changes may impact on OHS risk.

Therefore, staffing levels and care plans need to be reviewed regularly to ensure staffing is adequate in the light of potential increases in OHS risks to staff.

Failure to replace staff on sick leave is a particular concern.

If sick leave shifts aren’t replaced, or are covered only with a 4-hour shift, this will impact on OHS.

The OHS Risk Identification Checklist will help aged care nurses answer questions like:

  • Can the facility be evacuated in an emergency?
  • Can an effective duress response be mounted?
  • Are nurses working in isolation with residents who may be violent or aggressive?
  • Is there enough staff to comply with safe manual handling and other procedures?

The Checklist will be a simple form that allows nurses to assess risk by following an easy-to-understand list of factors which may have an effect on their safety and welfare.