Care work is a physically demanding job, and those who handle the elderly, the sick and the disabled on a daily basis, often suffer entirely avoidable injuries that result in pain, sickness, absence, loss of salary and other benefits — not to mention the disruption of care for their clients.
Back injuries and other soft tissue injuries are common place, resulting in time off work in an industry often lacking generous sick pay conditions.
When Care packages are put together for the welfare of the sick and elderly, a Needs Assessment should not just be carried out for the client out but also a Risk Assessment for the Carer’s own health and safety. The client’s welfare is best served when the Carer and the client’s needs are jointly considered and innovative solutions are identified to tackle the identified risks together.
The Service Provider or Agency, often the Local Authority, has the primary responsibility for the Carer’s own health and safety. The Provider should engage a competent person to identify the hazards and consult with the staff who should be encouraged to report problems as soon as they emerge, such as any physically demanding needs of the client. These risks should be constantly reassessed.
General or generic Risk Assessments are useful but insufficient as locations and needs can vary. Therefore Risk Assessments should be assessed for the care required for each individual client. Individual circumstances could include such matters as a customer’s aggressive behaviour, a tendency to fall or spasm, the client’s comprehension, anxieties and communication needs.
If family members are involved, their abilities will need to be considered as well as the physical environment and indeed, any challenges presented if the care is being provided both during the day and/or night time. If there is insufficient information regarding a client’s circumstances, or in an emergency situation, a cautious approach should be followed and it would often be wise to employ more than one Carer in these circumstances.
Carers should receive training which allows for an assessment of their physical fitness and prior experience. Refresher training, on an annual basis at least, is also merited. Carers should be trained in the correct procedures to follow when designated systems cannot be applied as well as how to secure additional help when needed. The Statutory Service will normally supply equipment under Community Care Policies such as hoists, slide sheets, wheelchairs and walking aids but sometimes such standard equipment must be adapted, for example for different weight limits.
Equipment must be maintained and used appropriately and training in the use of this equipment is essential so that the Carer may identify faults and know how to engage correctly in their safe use.This is essential for the welfare of both the carer and the client. Often the height of the client, when sitting or lying, can cause a Carer to stoop in an awkward posture. Bed blocks or electrical mattress variators can easily overcome such potential hazards. The Service Providers should check Equipment Service Contracts and faulty equipment should be labelled “out of use”. Further general guidance can be found in the Manual Handling Regulations, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations.
National Minimum Wage
As a Worker, you should of course be receiving the national minimum wage which has been raised to £7.20 per hour for Workers aged 21 years and over. Pay less than the minimum wage is illegal. You can make an application to the Employment Tribunal if your Employers do not pay you the minimum wage.
Breaks, rests, night-time work
If you are working a period of not less than 7 hours, which includes the period between midnight and 5.00 am, then your Employer should take all reasonable steps to protect your health and safety to ensure that your normal hours of work do not exceed an average of 8 hours in each 24 hours. An Employer should take into account that night work may increase a Worker’s stress levels.
Workers have the right to one uninterrupted 20 minute rest break during their working day if you work more than 6 hours. As a Carer you may be entitled to compensatory rest instead of specific rest breaks because you are doing shift work for example. So if you are required by your Employer to work during a period which would otherwise be a rest period, your Employer must allow you, whenever possible, to take an equivalent period of compensatory rest.
As a Carer the work can be demanding and exhausting, and you have the right to 11 hours rest between working days so, for example, if you finish work at 7.00 pm, you should not start work again at least before 6.00 am the next day.
As a Carer, you also are entitled to weekly rest, and you have the right to either an uninterrupted 24 hours without any work each week or uninterrupted 48 hours without any work each fortnight.
If you believe you may have suffered an injury due to your work as a Carer, further general guidance can be found in the Manual Handling Regulations, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, and Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations and the Working Time Regulations.
Thomas Dunton have a dedicated team of specialist Personal Injury Lawyers ready to help you. We offer a free one hour interview where we can discuss your case, without obligation, and advise you on the best course of action to take.
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