NIOSH offers advice for employers, employees in home health care
Violence, overexertion, and stress are among the risks that led to the 27,400 recorded injuries among home health care workers in 2007. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has issued a series of fast fact cards to help employers protect their workers.
How to Prevent Violence on the Job warns of the vulnerability of home health care workers as they face an unprotected and unpredictable environment each time they enter a client's community and home. "The spectrum of violence ranges from verbal abuse, to stalking or threats of assault, to homicide," according to the publication.
The card offers the following tips for employers:
- Establish a zero-tolerance policy for all incidents of violence.
- Train workers on recognizing and preventing workplace violence.
- Investigate all reports of violence.
- Work with police to identify dangerous neighborhoods where special precautions need to be taken and provide that information to employees.
The fast fact card offers suggestions for managing violent situations. "Consider working with an escort in high crime areas and if possible schedule visits during daylight hours" is one. Another suggests employees stay in their cars and contact a manager if they notice anything that might threaten their security, "such as strong odors from a drug lab, gunshots, or shouting and sounds of fighting."
NIOSH suggests employees maintain behavior that helps to defuse anger by "presenting a calm caring attitude; not matching threats; not giving orders; and acknowledging the person's feelings." The agency also recommends avoiding behaviors that may be interpreted as aggressive "for example, moving rapidly or getting too close, touching unnecessarily, or speaking loudly."
Musculoskeletal disorders include injuries of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, joints, cartilage, bones, or blood vessels in the arms, legs, head, neck or back. They may be caused or aggravated by lifting, pushing, and pulling and may result in pain, stiffness, swelling, numbness, and tingling.
In How to Prevent Musculoskeletal Disorders, employers are advised to take the following actions to prevent MSDs among their home health care employees:
- Develop policies to ensure all care plans determine whether ergonomic assistive devices are needed.
- Provide ergonomic assistive devices, such as slide boards or gait belts, when needed.
- Provide training on assistive ergonomic devices, their uses, the clinical situation requiring them, and how to order them in the plan of care.
- Develop policies to assess the caregiver's competence with the assistive devices once he has been trained and is using them.
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March 22, 2012
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