Today, a good work environment means paying attention to the needs of your employees and being at the forefront of building a safe working environment with best in class safety training programmes. Every industry and work place has its own stresses and safety standards which can be combated accordingly. According to Australian Jobs 2018[1] report by the Department of Jobs and Small Business, the Healthcare sector, Australia’s highest employed industry, faces a barrage of work place injuries and illness primarily due to the nature of work undertaken by staff.

In order to combat work place injuries and illnesses, The Australian Health and Safety Strategy[2] was introduced in 2012 which aims to reduce the nationwide incident rate by 30 per cent by 2022. However, organisations that embrace innovation, enforce the correct techniques and provide education to their staff will be best equipped to establish a safe working environment for their staff.

The biggest risks for workers within the healthcare industry

In 2014, The University of Sydney[3] investigated work related injuries, the study conducted by a team of international researchers revealed a third of all work-related injuries were down to lower back pain which occurred as a result of lifting, forceful movement, awkward positions and vibration.

Sacrificing their own well-being for the sake of their patients, workers in the healthcare industry face many health associated risks due to the environment in which they’re exposed to.  In fact, the Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics 2014-15 report[4] uncovered the areas of the body most affected by injury were the back (21 per cent), hands (13 per cent), shoulders (11 per cent per cent) and knees (10 per cent).

Injury through patient care is not the only risk facing healthcare workers, those within the cleaning department face their own set of challenges. The cleaning staff of any facility face a range of work-related injuries due to completing tasks such as lifting or moving buckets full of water or bending over to clean surfaces thoroughly. They are heavily relied upon to provide a clean and hygienic environment for patients, their families and staff. In the case where, a cleaning staff gets injured and is not able to complete their duties, a knock on effect can occur and severely impact the health and hygiene of the entire facility.

Establishing a safe working environment

Establishing a safe working environment for staff can be efficiently achieved by implementing a number of core values and strategies.  This includes embracing technology, reinforcing technique and consistently providing education for staff.

In an industry that is always seeking to improve, innovation is a key element that can be adopted into workplace to help lower the risks associated with working in the healthcare industry. One such innovation which has had significant impact is microfibre products which are proven to remove 99 per cent of germs whilst trapping dirt, dust and grease.

The technique and equipment used to carry out tasks are also an integral strategy to help establish a safe working environment. Using light weight and compact equipment in a way that is ergonomically beneficial for the worker reduce the movement risk for employees and helps reduce work related injuries.

The future of your working environment

From a national perspective, the health and care of the workforce has been identified as a priority within the Australian Health and Safety strategy. By 2022, the following positive outcomes are sought to be achieved:

  • A reduction in the number of worker fatalities due to injury of at least
    20 per cent.
  • A reduction in the incidence rate of claims resulting in one or more weeks off work of at least 30 per cent.
  • A reduction in the incidence rate of claims for musculoskeletal disorders resulting in one or more weeks work of at least 30 per cent.

The future of Australia’s workforce according to CSIRO and Data61’s joint report Workplace safety futures[5] revealed a rise in workplace stress and mental illness, a blur between life at work and at home and an increasing average age of the Australian workforce. Furthermore, the report considers the impact of technology within the force and discusses work health and safety compensation.

Due to the changing nature of jobs and the fourth revolution we are currently witnessing it’s key for organisations to embrace new strategies, utilise emerging innovation and technology and continue to educate their staff so they are better equipped to provide adequate adjustments to health and safety in the work place.

[1] Australian Jobs

[2] The Australian Work Healthy and Safety Strategy 2012 – 2022

[3] Lower back pain responsible for a third of work-related disability

[4] New Australian workers’ compensation statistics report out

[5] Workplace safety futures