How Safety Checklists Help Mitigate Risk in the Home Care Environment

October 10, 2016

A home health care agency should make a practice of conducting regular worksite walkthroughs to identify and control hazards in the home environment. To facilitate these walkthroughs, pre-contract and post-contract safety checklists have been found to be an effective tool in ensuring that a potential hazard is not overlooked, and that necessary remediation steps are taken when hazards are discovered. These checklists are also helpful in educating employees as well as the patients’ families about potential hazards in the home. This will enable a home health care agency to maintain that workers and clients will be safer, healthier and more productive while also helping to reduce the potential for patient injury.

Hazards addressed in safety checklists for the home health care sector cover several topics, including manual tasks; slips, trips and falls; occupational violence/aggression; biological substances; hazardous substances; electrical hazards; vehicle hazards; working alone; and psychosocial issues/stress. Let’s take a look at two of these topics to see how a checklist can aid in risk assessment.

Manual Tasks

Manual tasks cover any activity that requires a person to use his or her physical body (musculoskeletal system) to perform work. It includes manual handling, performing repetitive actions, adopting awkward and sustained postures, etc.. Manual tasks can result in acute (immediate or sudden from a specific incident) or sometimes chronic injuries. Workers in home-based care are most at risk from transfers and handling of patients/clients; working in awkward/sustained postures (for example, in a confined bathroom while assisting a client with showering tasks) or handling heavy loads. A safety checklist that covers manual tasks will include some of the following items:

  • Identify all manual task hazards, including driving vehicles, loading/unloading vehicles, carrying equipment to homes, client transfers, client movement (in wheelchairs, wheeled equipment, bed mobility), unsafe equipment, change in client function, moving furniture, cleaning, shopping, etc.
  • Assess whether control measures are in place for potential risk factors. For example, is there adequate lumbar support in vehicles, trolleys for movement of equipment to/from and within homes, and sufficient and adequate client handling equipment as per assessed needs? Is home-based equipment regularly maintained and are there reporting mechanisms in place for unsafe equipment?

Slips, Trips & Falls

Slips, trips and falls are the second most common injury (after manual task injuries) for workers in the home care industry. Slips, trips and falls risk factors can be categorized into 10 categories: floor surface and condition, objects on the floor, cleaning/spill containment, floor contamination, ability to see floors/walkways/hazards, space and design, stairs and stepladders, work activities, pace and processes, footwear and clothing, and individual factors.

A checklist that covers each risk factor under the above categories will help identify problems and assess the risk as you go down each item. For example, if you were looking at the floor surface, the checklist would include things such as whether there is too much or too little friction on the floor covering or a change in the floor type (from tiles to carpet) that could cause a trip, whether the floors are in poor repair, are the surfaces unstable, and so on. Other items on a safety checklist would include questions on the presence and condition of stairs, ramps and steps, the presence of any obstructions in walkways (mats, electrical leads, furniture, hoses) and whether there is adequate lighting of internal and external areas.

Safety checklists are an easy-to-use and cost-effective tool to not only help your home health care organization in assessing the risks at a patient’s home before an employee enters the home but also to assist in methodically addressing each risk for optimum safety for employees and patients. Additionally, safety checklists will help you continue to remain in compliance with state and federal workplace regulations specific to the industry.

Manchester Specialty focuses on providing comprehensive insurance protection for the home health care industry, including Workers’ Compensation insurance. Our carrier partners also offer industry-specific risk assessment tools and services to help home health care clients prevent and mitigate losses.  To learn more about our programs and services, you or your local agent/broker may contact us at 855.972.9399.