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Case study: Targeting sprain and strain injuries in aged care

A Gayndah aged care home has seen a major improvement in worker injury rates after overhauling its health, safety and injury management processes to target musculoskeletal injuries.

Central and Upper Burnett District Home for the Aged employs 85 staff and offers residential aged care, respite, supported living and a memory support unit in the North Burnett Region of Queensland. The home, which has operated for more than 36 years, was invited into the Queensland Government's Injury Prevention and Management program (IPaM) in 2016 because of its high number of musculoskeletal injuries and challenges returning injured workers to work.

IPaM worked with the home's operators to change its organisational culture, educating workers on hazard identification, risk management and incident reporting, and addressing issues on its injury prevention and management processes.

The induction and orientation process was changed to increase staff awareness of their work health and safety responsibilities, while the Board of Governance was made aware of its work health and safety duties. The overhaul included education in manual handling, infection control, occupational violence, fire safety and workplace bullying.

The employer now includes work health and safety as a standing item on all meeting agendas to encourage staff awareness and engagement. To further promote WHS, the home now has a Workplace Health and Safety Station, where staff can access information on WHS issues at any time. Employees now openly provide input and make suggestions for WHS improvement.

Other changes include; senior staff getting paid first aid training, standard operating procedures for plant and equipment in place; risk assessments done regularly; and eyewash and earplug stations installed.

The employer recognised some workers were wary of change but maintained the IPaM momentum to complete a comprehensive integrated safety management system. Staff now have a different mindset towards WHS and the facility is getting involved in other initiatives, such as external wellbeing assessments and support programs.

The overhaul also included a review of injury management and return to work processes. Now, more consultation and documentation are provided to injured workers, including feedback avenues for injured workers returning to full duties. Workers' compensation claim statistics are reviewed regularly to identify emerging trends.

The changes have seen fewer musculoskeletal injuries and improved workplace safety, with workers documenting incidents, identifying hazards and targeting risks. Senior staff follow processes when incidents occur and workers are required to get medical clearance before returning to work – not just for active claims. This prevents people returning to work when they're not ready and aggravating existing injuries.

Central and Upper Burnett District Home for the Aged admits there's been a complete turnaround in safety culture:

“We had systems in place that were adequate. However, through thorough close examination of those systems, we identified areas of improvement and reviewed existing processes in place and improved on those systems. By doing this we were able to build capacity, and, through delivering education, we are turning the culture around and WHS is at the forefront of staff thinking.”

Further information

Click here for more information about the Injury Prevention and Management program.