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Best Practices for Care Home Safety

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Living longer or needing extensive support can be a mixed blessing. Sometimes the chronically ill or frail individuals who may need assistance with the basic functions of living are led to reside in a facility such as a care, nursing or rehabilitation home. Many dependent elderly or not so elderly become extended care facility residents, where their physically demanding needs are both a challenge and a hazard to nursing aides and other caregivers.

Care home staff are caring individuals and often place more emphasis on patient safety issues than their own. Such circumstances have led to employees sustaining frequent and often severe workplace injuries, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Nationally, care home workers have experienced injuries and illnesses at an alarming rate. BLS reported in 2006 that for Standard Industrial Code 8050, the extended-care facility injury and illness incident rate was 9.8 in comparison with a private industry incident rate of 4.4. This fact is largely why BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene and numerous federal agencies have focused on the extended-care facility industry for accelerated hazard-control activities.

There are many reasons for the high injury and illness rates in such facilities. Injuries occur due to the high incidence of resident transfers. According to the BLS:

• Nursing home workers suffer most injuries when handling residents (51.2 percent);
• Fifty-eight percent of their injuries were strains and sprains;
• While back injuries account for 27 percent of all injuries in the private sector, they account for 42 percent in nursing homes;
• One of the 10 occupations with the highest number of injuries and illnesses,

In addition, according to BWC statistics, back injuries average more than $23,000 in workers’ compensation expenses.

In some facilities, residents are completely dependent on staff members to provide for their daily living activities. Recent hospital trends indicate these facilities send older, more dependent patients to extended-care facilities for care in an attempt to cut rising hospital costs. The nurses’ aides are those workers who primarily assist residents with their daily needs which in turn creates repetition in actions, movement and more strain.

Care facilities dedicated to quality resident care, and maintaining a quality and stable work force, have risks inherent to the business that have been controlled. Attention to risk factors and controls, a strong management commitment, involvement of the employees, strong and regular safety awareness training, and progressive claims management are commonalties in these institutions.

Here are some ideas on how you can help create a better and safer work environment for your staff:

-The administrator advises safety with coaching and mentoring with visibility being the key. By being in a group program it reduces strain and pressure on everyone…Everyone helping everyone

-Administrators need to be out helping staff to gain the opportunity to see the problems of staff members.

-Senior managers must personalize the work environment and get to know their employees, and treat them like family;

-Get people involved and take injury prevention seriously

-Team-lift policies prevent individual handling by any one employee.

-Regulations are not a terrible imposition; accept them and build for these minimum standards. Try to reach excellence in daily operations. Make everyone feel like a part of the team and be genuine in your efforts

-Be sure to show injured workers that management cares about them

-Management values employee suggestions and acts upon them in a timely manner

By working with your team this way it shows them respect, concern and your the ability to lead a team in a powerful and caring manner. This leads to several positive changes in the work environment as well, such as:
“Reductions in injury frequency and severity Improvements in employee/management communications, Heightened safety awareness, Employee morale, attitude and productivity improved and they share common accomplishments.”

All of this needs to begin from the top. The team leaders, administrator and managers. Your commitment gives you in return a commitment from them which then reflects upon the safety and patient care. By you providing a visible and active voice in all the process, this gives them the opportunity to follow a great example. Regular meetings for staff moral and support, with a team lead and a coach is more productive than any book one can read. It’s hand on and they feel included and they feel more important. They are being heard.
You are giving them the assurance that they are someone and not just another “employee” and that your being a part of a healthy team means so much to them.

Be sure as a team lead to compensate them when possibilities arise.
This does not necessarily mean that they should have an increase in pay, some programs offer recognition for a job well done with awards ranging from simple praise to monetary incentives for completion of goals.

It is your responsibility to maintain a mission that includes quality care for residents and workers.

Be safe!
Nicole Gruendl
www.NicoleGruendl.com

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