Community support services occupational health and safety compliance kit

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1 Community support services occupational health and safety compliance kit How to control the risk of workplace injuries in six areas of the community support services sector May 2011 MIA027/01/05.11

2 About this kit This kit has been developed in response to requests for practical advice about how to improve occupational health and safety (OHS) and prevent workplace injuries in the community support services sector. The kit describes six areas where hazards or risks may arise. Workplace injuries in the community support services sector commonly occur in these areas.* This kit also includes other information about OHS. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This may include considering the equipment used, the working environment or the systems of work in relation to how services are delivered. As well as meeting legal requirements, good OHS work practices may support better outcomes for clients. The information in this kit should not be viewed as the only way to improve OHS or prevent workplace injuries. Depending on the circumstances, an employer may need to implement multiple or different solutions to those contained in this kit (including solutions in other guidance materials). *Based on WorkSafe Victoria s accident compensation claims received from 2005/ /10. These six areas may not be present in all community support services working environments. Workplace injuries in the community support services sector The community support services sector provides a range of support services to individuals, groups and families. Some examples include child and family services, youth services, counselling services, group rehabilitation programs, housing support, refuges, and other social assistance and welfare services. While these organisations provide different services, many of the workplace injuries that occur are similar and have similar risk controls. Between 2005/06 and 2009/10, 2900 workers were seriously injured while working in community support services in Victoria. Of these, 53% were sprains, strains, fractures and soft tissue injuries, also known as musculoskeletal injuries.** These injuries are preventable. **Based on WorkSafe Victoria s accident compensation claims received from 2005/ /10. The six areas addressed in this kit are: 1. Moving and lifting objects 2. Using office areas 3. Transporting people and equipment in vehicles 4. Preventing slips, trips and falls 5. Occupational violence 6. Working alone Note: Employers who provide personal care services such as moving and supporting people who are elderly, frail or have a disability, should also refer to the following information kits: Disability services occupational health and safety compliance kit Home care occupational health and safety compliance kit. These kits provide information about how to prevent workplace injuries associated with personal care services (ie showering/bathing clients in the home, assisting clients in wheelchairs and cleaning tasks such as vacuuming, mopping and cleaning bathrooms). Note: There may also be hazards present in community support services that pose risks to psychological health. Examples of these hazards are workplace bullying, work-related stress and work-related fatigue. More information on controlling the risks associated with these hazards can be found on WorkSafe s website: worksafe.vic.gov.au/stress worksafe.vic.gov.au/bullying

3 Responsibilities* Employers Employers can include not for profit organisations, private companies, community organisations, franchises, local governments or other businesses that have management or control of the workplace. Employers have a responsibility under the OHS Act to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. Employers also have a responsibility to make sure that the organisation s activities do not expose other people to risks to their health and safety (eg volunteers, visitors or clients). Employers cannot contract out of their OHS obligations. Under the OHS Act a workplace is defined as a place where workers or self-employed persons work. For example: While workers are working in a client s home, that home is a workplace. For community-based activities in external locations, the location of the activity is a workplace. A vehicle is a workplace when being used by a worker to carry out tasks required by the employer. Employers must: provide and maintain a workplace, plant (ie equipment, tools and machinery) and systems of work that are safe and without risks to health and safety provide adequate facilities for the welfare of workers provide information, instruction, training or supervision to workers to enable them to perform their work safely and without risks to health implement arrangements for the safe use, handling, storage and transport of chemicals and hazardous substances monitor the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace, and keep records relating to the health and safety of workers employ or engage suitably qualified person(s) to provide advice to the employer on the health and safety of workers consult with workers and HSRs on matters that may affect their health, safety or welfare provide workers with information in appropriate languages about health and safety arrangements in the workplace, and who workers can contact to ask questions or make a complaint notify WorkSafe immediately upon becoming aware of an incident that results in death or injury (including exposure to a substance) which requires medical treatment. Some workers in community support services are employed by labour hire agencies to work in another organisation. These workers are sometimes called contractors, agency staff or temporary staff. In these situations, both the labour hire agency and the host employer may have responsibilities to protect the health and safety of workers. Where there are multiple employers who manage or control the workplace (eg in a co-located service with shared work areas), all employers have responsibilities to provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. Workers Workers have a responsibility under the OHS Act to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and for the health and safety of others who may be affected by their actions while at work. Clients An employer has the primary duty to provide and maintain, for its workers and other persons, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health so far as is reasonably practicable. Under the OHS Act, a person who has management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health. This duty extends to a client s premises when a community support worker makes a visit. A client would be encouraged to take reasonable steps to notify workers and /or the workers employer of hazards associated with their premises. *Visit worksafe.vic.gov.au for more information about these and other responsibilities.

4 Highest Eliminate the hazards or eliminate the risk Most Level of protection Reduce the risk by: altering the workplace layout or environment changing work practices (eg how work is done, by whom, where, when and how often) changing objects used in the task (eg reducing, replacing or modifying object weight, dimensions or characteristics) using mechanical aids; or using any combination of the above. Reliability Lowest Provide information, training and instruction on risk control measures. Sole reliance on these should only be considered when none of the above is reasonably practicable. Least Before you implement any solutions An employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult with workers who are or are likely to be directly affected by health and safety matters. Where workers are represented by a health and safety representative (HSR), the consultation must involve that representative. If an employer engages volunteers, it would be considered good practice for the employer to also consult with its volunteers. Select solutions that are most reliable and provide the highest level of protection possible using the diagram above to help you. To determine what is reasonably practicable, visit worksafe.vic.gov.au and search reasonably practicable.

5 Preventing workplace injuries Read the information inside this kit Consult with workers and HSRs about workplace OHS and measures to be taken to control risks. Refer to: the further information section on the back of this kit and in each handout to learn more about how to control particular risks the diagram opposite to select solutions for the workplace that provide the highest level of protection and reliability possible. Implement solutions to eliminate or reduce the risks associated with hazards, so far as is reasonably practicable, to prevent injuries from occurring. Regularly review any solutions that are put in place to check they are still effective. Continue to identify hazards and put solutions in place in consultation with workers and any HSRs. Report injuries or near misses so they can be analysed and solutions put in place to prevent further incidents. Encourage active health and safety representation (eg HSRs, OHS committees). Engage someone who is suitably qualified in relation to OHS to provide advice concerning the health and safety of workers. Expand this kit by adding extra resources. Refer to the further information section of this kit and each handout for ideas. For example, there may be other relevant resources in other compliance kits or other WorkSafe guidance. Important note The information in this kit is general guidance only. It should not be viewed as a comprehensive guide to the law and should be read in conjunction with the legislation. This kit does not cover all your obligations under health and safety laws. Compliance with OHS laws is a continuous process that involves the provision and maintenance of a healthy and safe working environment (including safe systems of work). This ongoing process must be sufficient to fulfil the duty holder s obligations under OHS laws. WorkSafe inspectors check whether employers are preventing workplace injuries by eliminating or reducing risks in relation to these six areas, so far as is reasonably practicable.

6 Further information WorkSafe Advisory Service Toll-free: worksafe.vic.gov.au Further resources WorkSafe publications Manual Handling Code of Practice, 2000 Working safely in community services, 2006 Volunteer health and safety: A handbook for community service organisations, 2008 Working safely in visiting health services, 2006 Prevention and management of aggression in health services, 2008 Transferring people safely, 2009 WorkSafe OHS compliance kits Children s services, disability services and home care Guide to incident notification, 2008 How WorkSafe applies the law in relation to reasonably practicable, 2007 How WorkSafe applies the law to: Employing or engaging suitably qualified persons to provide health and safety advice, 2008 Other publications Victorian home care industry occupational health and safety guide, 2005 Copyright statement Victorian WorkCover Authority You may copy and disseminate this kit for non-commercial uses relating to the promotion of occupational and health and safety in the workplace. All copies must include this copyright statement. worksafe.vic.gov.au

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