Ageing, Disability & Home Care

Home and Community Care - Work safety
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Risk assessment

client and worker look for risks

Once a hazard has been identified, you are required to assess for risk.

  • A hazard is anything, including work practices or procedures, that has the potential to harm the health or safety of a person, or to cause damage to property
  • Risk is the chance of the injury or damage happening, and how severe the injury or damage might be.   

For example, water left on the floor is a hazard, with the risk being that a slip and fall is likely to occur and could result in breaking a bone and/or soft tissue injury. 


Risk assessment is making a judgement about how dangerous a risk associated with a hazard is. This must be done in consultation with the people who may be exposed to the risk.

A risk assessment determines:
  • what kind of risks there are
  • the likelihood of risk
  • the severity of the risk 
  • priorities and plans for risk control

Risk assessment in the client’s home

If a hazard is identified and the risk can be controlled immediately, details of the hazard, risk and controls implemented should be reported and documented.  It is important to monitor and review the risk and control to ensure the control has been effective and the risk has been reduced as much as possible.

A risk assessment must be conducted when a hazard is identified and the risk cannot be controlled immediately.

Risk assessments can also be conducted:

  • to determine if a task is being done in the safest way or if it involves risks
  • if a significant change is proposed to the clients home, work practices and/or equipment used for a task
  • if preparing a safe work procedure for a task
  • if the current assessment for a task is no longer valid

While it is possible to do a risk assessment for a generic task, the individual characteristics of each client may make the task higher or lower risk.  You should consider:

  • environmental issues
  • needs and abilities of family and carers
  • psychological, cognitive and behavioural factors
  • medical issues
  • financial situation
  • carer/client relationships
  • other social factors 

Who is involved

The risk assessment should be conducted and/or attended by the coordinator of the service. The coordinator of the service liaises with the client, support workers and other key stakeholders to highlight hazards and risks and discuss the outcomes of the risk assessment.

Assessment may require the input of a number of workers, family members, and depending on the complexity of the issues, the expert advice of occupational therapists, physiotherapists, or WHS consultants.

How to assess for risk

Discuss the hazard(s) with the key stakeholders. Consider:
  • the nature of the hazard, e.g. chemical, heavy load, client behaviour
  • how it might affect health and safety, e.g. allergic reactions, back injury, assault
  • how workers are exposed to the hazard, e.g. skin contact, moving a client, trigger behaviours
  • how much, how long and how often and workers are exposed, e.g. six times a day for two hours, twice a week
  • the location of the hazard, e.g. bathroom, garden, front veranda

Consider the extent of the injury or degree of harm that may be caused by the hazard. Could it:

  • kill or cause permanent disability or ill health?
  • cause long-term illness or serious injury?
  • cause someone to need medical attention and be off work for several days?
  • cause someone to need first aid?

Ask how likely is it to cause injury, illness or damage. What is the level of a worker’s exposure to the hazard?

  • very likely — could happen any time 
  • likely — could happen sometime 
  • unlikely — could happen, but very rarely 
  • very unlikely — could happen, but probably never will

Use a priority table 

Prioritise each hazard based on its risk using the table shown below. Using this method helps to answer two basic questions about the risk at the same time, being:
  1. Is it likely?
  2. Could it be severe?
Numbers within the table show how important it is to take action, with the following scale to be used as a guide:
 

1–2    Need to eliminate the hazard immediately (usually within 24 hours) or if hazard cannot be eliminated, reduce the risk of the hazard to a lower rating by implementing at least one control measure.  

3–4      Need to eliminate or control the hazard within a reasonable timeframe (usually no longer than two weeks).

5–6    Need to eliminate or control the hazard when possible.

 

Severity description/rating

Very likely

Could happen any time 

Likely

Could happen sometime 

Unlikely

Could happen but very rarely

Very unlikely

Could happen but probably never will

Kill or cause permanent disability or ill health 1 1 2 3
Long term illness or serious injury 1 2 3 4
Medical attention and several days off work 2 3 4 5
First aid needed 3 4 5 6

Ongoing risk assessment

In home care environments, assessment of WHS risks is an ongoing process. Many factors change over time, and in order to be effective, risk assessments must be kept up-to-date. When the client and/or procedures change or the safe work procedures are no longer appropriate the risk assessment must be reviewed. 

Communication during risk assessment 

As noted above, it is important to involve all key stakeholders in the risk assessment process. You should inform support workers exposed to the risk as soon as practicable.  The client should also be informed at this time.

Key stakeholders should be told:

  • what the hazard and the risk is
  • what a risk assessment is and the purpose of doing one
  • who will do the assessment, who else will be present, when it will occur and what it will involve
  • potential outcomes of the assessment
  • their rights and responsibilities when involved in a risk assessment
  • WHS risk assessment fact sheets are available to assist the communication process.

Where preliminary or informal assessment suggests the risk is high, it is recommended formal agreement / consent of the client to be involved in the process is obtained.  It is important they understand the potential impact on their services.  If the client does not agree, the manager can involve key stakeholders/relevant others i.e. advocate, external bodies and or mediation. The decision to modify, suspend or cease services due to high risk and/or unwillingness to participate in the risk assessment usually sits with the senior manager.

When the risk assessment is completed, the assessor will indicate to the client the risks identified and assessed, and the next step in the risk management process – risk control.

Documentation

The following documentation may be completed as part of the risk assessment process:
  • risk assessment priority table or matrix
  • completion of a risk assessment component on a hazard report form
  • risk assessment and risk control plan
  • a review date is set and documented
  • documentation in the client record that an WHS risk assessment has occurred and reference to appropriate documentation and its location
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