Home health workers face a range of safety risks including overexertion, falls, car accidents and hostile pets that make their jobs more treacherous than those of their hospital counterparts. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of injury in home care settings is about fifty percent higher than that in hospitals. The home care setting is a challenging work environment regarding patient safety. Health care workers are exposed to serious health and safety hazards on the job.
Though it is not possible to eliminate the risks associated with the social assistance and health care industry, these safety tips can help workers to avoid the extreme situation and reduce the risks.
Take Precautionary Measures to Avoid Bloodborne Diseases
Health care workers frequently come in contact with body fluids and are therefore exposed to bloodborne diseases. In this case, viral and bacterial infections are transmitted through blood and other body fluids. The risk of infection rises after a worker comes in contact with these fluids. Therefore, health care workers should take necessary precautions and wear personal protective equipment to avoid contamination. Gloves, gowns, safety goggles, and face shields can keep body fluids off the worker's skin.
Never Go beyond Your Physical Limitations
Spinal injuries from moving or lifting patients are one of the biggest risks to nurses, home health aides, and other home health workers. Musculoskeletal injuries are also common for healthcare assistants as they have to lift immobile patients and transfer them between wheelchairs and beds. This puts workers at risk for musculoskeletal disorders, which damage their nerves, bones, ligaments, muscles, joints, tendons, cartilage, or blood vessels in the limbs, back, neck or head.
If you're working alone, practice proper body mechanics. Take full advantage of assistive devices and additional transfer systems such as slings, slip sheets, and electronic hoists. If you lack access to these devices, at least use the correct body posture for reducing the risk of injury; for example, keep your feet apart and knees bent when lifting an immobile patient. Also, keep some flexibility and a reasonable pace in your daily schedule, so you aren't tempted to take injury-inducing shortcuts.
To help prevent injuries, some home health agencies use a companion system that allows two workers to team up to provide care for heavyweight or hard-to-transfer patients.
Always Watch Your Step
Do not remove your shoes in a client's home, because you may stub your toe, slip or step on a tack, nail or piece of glass. Wear disposable surgical shoe covers, or leave a clean pair of shoes at the house for the culturally sensitive clients who prefer their guests go shoeless. Also, be mindful of household risks like slippery floors or open cupboards, which can also cause injury when you're engrossed in assisting patients. Trips, slips and falls are the 2nd most common cause of injury in a home healthcare setting. This includes injury to the client or the health care aide. So utmost precautions should be taken to avoid both.
Stay away from Animals and Pets
Animal bites and scratches are a risk exclusive to healthcare workers in the home environment. Bites may inflict serious injury and result in the need for surgical care. Even if a pet seems non-threatening, keep in mind that they still pose a threat, as any animal can become aggressive if it senses its territory is being trespassed. Unless you know the animal well, avoid any contact with pets. Even the friendliest pets can crack on you. Many healthcare agencies train their workers never to touch an animal. Besides the possible threat, animals can distract you and obstruct your work.