Identifying Health and Safety Hazards in Your Care Home
Health and safety hazards are a regular source of potential risk for a care home and an area that every care home owner needs to be on top of at all times.
To provide the best care service for your patients/residents and to ensure that your care home runs smoothly, many activities need to happen on a daily basis. These include personal care, cooking, cleaning, maintenance, medication administration and the moving and handling of people. All these activities are areas of potential risk and if not managed effectively, may lead to an unexpected event, which could result in a claim being made against you.
Many of the patients/residents in your care home are likely to be elderly with health conditions or mobility issues, or perhaps have lower mental capacity or capabilities and need to be protected from risks that they don’t see or understand. You will also have staff, medical professionals, and visiting family members on your premises who are all at potential risk from a health and safety hazard in your care home.
It’s therefore vital that you identify any potential health and safety risks in your care facility and have plans in place to mitigate them.
Speaking to care home owners, we know that a common reason for CQC ratings of ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ can sometimes be due, in part, to insufficient health and safety procedures and contingency plans.
We thought it would be useful to list some of key areas where potential hazards can arise – prevention and awareness is vital to help mitigate your risk as much as possible. This is not an exhaustive list and of course every care home is different, but here are some areas that we believe should be part of your checklist:
Moving and handling
The risks here is to the staff that care for patients/residents and claims often arise from physical injury. Patients or residents may rely on the physical support of their carer to help them with their daily routines such as dressing or bathing. Or they may need assistance to get into a wheelchair, for example. Care home owners should make sure that any equipment required (such as hoists) to help with moving or handling patients is available and full training on its use has been given. Anyone required to lift or move residents should be given proper training on how to do this. If an incident should occur, a review of why this happened, any your existing procedures should be carried out and the event recorded.
Equipment and medical device safety
Hoists, lifts, motorised ramps, bed rails etc will pose a risk if not correctly maintained. Regular maintenance checks to ensure everything is working correctly may be a legal requirement, and will reduce the risk of an incident occurring, when using the equipment in your care home. Consideration given to the location and storage when not in use and anyone required to use the equipment should be trained.
Inadequately trained staff
If staff aren’t trained correctly and understand their role fully from physical requirements to communication and mental health support, they pose a threat to health and safety. Your staff should understand and practice the values of the 6 C’s – care, commitment, courage, compassion, competence and communication. They should know how to use any equipment correctly, your safety procedures, what to do in an emergency and how to work with each other as well as your patients/residents.
Slips, trips and falls
These are common hazards that you can look to mitigate fairly easily with some regular risk assessments. Wet floors, trailing wires, rugs, and obstructions are often reasons for non-fatal injuries in care homes. Adding areas of potential hazard to a regular check schedule will help to ensure that they are spotted before an incident can occur. Reporting any incidents or potential incidents is also important as is having a clear procedure to implement should an unexpected event occur.
Having robust safety procedures in place for the risk of a fire, will help to mitigate the fallout in the event of a fire at your care home. Appointing fire marshals, having the appropriate safety equipment, a regularly tested fire alarm and clear procedures on what to do in the event of a fire will help to protect everyone in the care home.
Hot water and surfaces
Patients and residents in your care home may have conditions that make them vulnerable to injury from hot water or hot surfaces. A patient could fall onto a hot surface and be unable to move away for example. Protective guards and warning notices will help here, as will a reduction in the core temperature of the water that comes from a hot tap.
Water-based hazards such as Legionnaires disease
Any systems that use/control water or water extraction can be a breeding ground for bacteria if not properly maintained. This could include air conditioning units, spas, or pools or water supplies. Regular maintenance of any systems should be put in place to mitigate this risk. Staff should be aware of any control procedures that would need to be implemented quickly, if an outbreak occurred in your care home.
Food handling and preparation
Outbreaks of food poisoning or other infectious diseases often occur from meals prepared in the kitchen, through unhygienic practices when handling, storing and cooking food. Anyone working with food should be trained in best hygiene practices, to avoid contamination. There are regulations that you need to adhere to including The Food Safety Act of 1990 and The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Ensure you and your team are aware of all the regulations that apply to your set up.
Infections and diseases
Covid-19 is a good example of how an infectious disease can be a hazard to a care home. Having plans in place to prevent an outbreak in the first instance is vital. And having comprehensive crisis management plans will help to contain and manage any outbreak in the future.
Aggression and violence
Your staff may be at risk from violence or aggression from patients or family members, or even each other. Having procedures in place to deal with this form of risk is important, to keep records of incidents and manage situations correctly.
Every day working environment
You should carry out any regular maintenance at your premises and regularly check that everything is in good working order. This includes things like your gas, water and electricity supply, paths, walkways, lights, building structure etc. Spotting a potential hazard early will allow you to address the problem before a disaster occurs.
Carrying out a risk assessment in your care home will help to manage health and safety standards. Of course any plans created as a result of the assessment must consider what standards need to be met by a regulator during a health and safety audit. There is a myriad of legislation for health and safety in care, to protect you, your staff, patients/residents and others.
Find out more about how we work with clients to present their care home risk assessments to insurers for favourable outcomes.
A few key pieces of legislation are:
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences 2013 (RIDDOR)
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
- Control of Substance Hazardous to Health (COSHH) 2002
- Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment (PUWER) 2002
- The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) 1998
- Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
A comprehensive package of insurance will support your risk management programme, ensuring you can continue to operate in the event of a claim.
Talk to an experienced broker today
If you would like to talk to an experienced commercial broker about the risks facing your care home, we’d be delighted to hear from you. We work with our clients to create a programme of insurance covers to protect against any potential claims.
Our impartial advice and guidance will help to ensure you have the right level of cover in place, so you can enjoy complete peace of mind and focus on running your care home.
Contact us today
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