There are many risks of injuries that nurses and care providers in hospitals face from manual handling activities. It is not possible to avoid manual handling tasks in the healthcare sector, however, risks must be identified, reduced, and employers have safety requirements in the workplace regarding their employees.
Risk identification and risks addressed can mean a change in the work system, personnel, or manual handling aids, for example.
Duties of Employers
Employers in the healthcare sector have several duties aimed at reducing manual handling healthcare accidents. Employers should, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- Ensure the safety, welfare and health of the employers at the workplace
- Avoid hazardous manual handling
- Assess injury risks from unavoidable manual handling that is hazardous
- Reduce injury risks to the lowest level possible
- Avail written assessment and action plans to all employees
- Determine and implement codes of practice to offer guidance on manual handling in the workplace
- Monitor policies and codes of practice and take action when they are not properly applied
- Prepare and revise the plans and procedures to be followed in case of emergency injuries
Negligence and Duty of Care
Negligence consists of the failure of an employer to reasonably fulfil their duties to employees and the employee suffers as a result. Employers have obligations regarding employee safety and can be found negligent in respect of manual handling healthcare accidents involving staff members.
Employers found liable for negligence will face legal consequences for the injury sustained by the employee. Some examples of negligence by employers in the healthcare sector include:
- Negligent hiring: Which may involve hiring of a worker who lacks the credentials, training and experience in manual handling tasks
- Negligent retention: Involves retaining an employee who has violated the codes of practice in manual handling activities
- Negligent supervision: Failure by the employer to fulfil their duty in providing proper supervision is regarded as negligent supervision
- Negligent training: Training methods that are haphazard and incomplete can compromise the safety, health and welfare of the employees
Before commencing a legal action for a healthcare accident, it is necessary to apply the principles of negligence and statutory duties of employers to the facts.
Training and Supervision
There should be a well-planned approach in providing manual handling as well as patient handling treatment in the workplace. Training and supervision should be done regularly in order to update and emphasize the information provided earlier to employees.
A designated supervisor should have the responsibility of supervising manual handling and should be fully competent to fulfil the role. The essential principles that should be considered in manual handling training include:
- There should be an overall strategy of reducing the risks in manual handling
- Staff should be instructed on the safe use of manual handling equipment
- Training should be based on practical handling skills that are problem-solving
- Training should be kept up to date in a form that is understandable by the employees
Employers ought to appoint competent persons such as manual handling experts or back care advisers to provide competent training.
Hoists are essential in handling patients and thus reducing the degree of manual handling done by the care providers.
Patient hoists are a workplace equipment meant for use by the employees and should therefore comply with relevant provisions.
Such provisions are those that relate to the safety, health and welfare of the employees at the workplace.
The hoists should be properly selected, used and maintained in a manner that ensures the safety of both the patients and the care providers.
Duties of Employees
Employees also have duties in prevention of manual handling healthcare accidents. They should:
- Follow the systems that have been laid down to ensure their safety
- Understand and be fully aware of the manual handling policies and codes of practice
- Make proper an cautious use of the equipment provided to ensure their safety
- Co-operate with their supervisors on training and safety matters
- Inform the management on defects in the safety equipment or hazardous manual handling activities
Safer Handling Policy
Employers should strive to ensure that the working practices of their employees are as safe as possible. The planning and introduction of a safer handling policy is important in achieving safer working practices. By doing so, employers will boost the quality of care provided to patients and also avoid costs associated with non-compliance.
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