Many care home institutions have been in the news lately as a result of vulnerable residents’ injuries and incidences. Reports have come to light, some as CQC concerns, over safety concerns and the use of medicines. One reported incidence involved a resident falling from a first floor window and sustaining injuries. Other incidences included medicines not being administered safely. Some of these instances may have just been simple human error but in some cases it may have been deliberate neglect on the part of the care home provider. Whatever the cause of the offence, responsibilities and actions need to be taken to correct it and prevent it from happening again. Care homes have, of late, come under scrutiny. It is vital that there is a consistent and legal way of operating in these care institutions. Employers and employees must adhere to a legal framework under the umbrella legislation of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act). The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also is also applicable to all work duties.
Employers have a duty to protect their employees working in care homes, in so far as making sure they are properly trained to care for service users. Employers must also protect the health and safety of others who might be affected by the way their employees go about their work. This includes service users, volunteers, visitors and contractors. Employees must protect their own health and safety and that of others. Service users in care homes have different levels of independence and different needs. However, the care home needs to be maintained so that it protects the most vulnerable users. The National Health Services and Community Care Act 1990 (Community Care Act) places emphasis on promoting people’s independence. A balance must be sought between the Community Care Act and the HSW Act to ensure service users are not exposed to unnecessary risk. Risks can include falls, slips, mobility problems, incorrect medical care and supervision, scalds and lack of communication. Up to date risk assessments must be carried out if a service user’s independence level has changed, if there has been changes to the care home layout, mobility changes, equipment updates and changes, medicine administration changes and changes to other service users that can affect another care user. Apart from these changes, proper risk assessments should also have been done from day one and updated periodically.
The key duties of employers would be to assess risks to staff, service users and visitors. Appropriate health and safety arrangements, training and instruction should be arranged for all as appropriate. Employers can appoint competent health and safety persons to help them comply with health and safety law. The risk assessment should involve carrying out an examination on what could cause harm (hazards) and if enough has been done to prevent harm. A hazard is anything that can cause harm such as moving and handling service users, as well as such things as exposure to chemicals and electricity. Risk assessments must be included for manual handling and COSHH.
Training and instruction of employees (i.e care workers and other staff) is the best way to achieve safety compliance as it is the care workers who have direct contact with the service users. Even though the employers and care home owners are ultimately responsible, it is the care workers who need to comply with health and safety on a personal level with the care users. Night shift workers, young workers and those part time must have their extra training needs met. An efficient communication system from head managment to staff will ensure there are no misunderstandings with regards to responsibilites and will ensure that the care needs of service users is met.
Sources hse website