Manual tasks in healthcare and social assistance

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Healthcare and social assistance workers play an important role in assisting others. Workers may be exposed to a range of hazards depending on the services provided, the location of the workplace and the clients being cared for.  Healthcare and social assistance workers may work in designated facilities such as healthcare and residential facilities (such as hospitals, outpatient clinics and aged care homes) or in people’s homes (such as aged care and disability assistance in homes).

Various manual tasks performed in the health and social assistance settings can lead to injury.  However, they are predominantly due to people handling.

Manual tasks in healthcare and residential care facilities

Hazardous manual tasks are the primary cause of injury in the healthcare and social assistance sector, with occupations such as nurses and carers being at greatest risk. Moving and handling is a key part of the working day for most employees; from moving equipment, laundry, catering, supplies or waste to assisting residents in moving. Workplaces include various hospital departments (eg patient rooms, surgery, catering, outpatient clinics, radiology and rehabilitation), residential care facilities (aged care homes), and community clinics (eg GP clinics, mental health clinics, pathology and allied health clinics).

Manual tasks injury risks exist in all healthcare and residential care settings and can come from a variety of different sources including:

  • Area and layout: eg location of services and equipment required in relation to moving patients and work flow
  • Equipment: eg lack of equipment or limitations of equipment such as weight ratings, inappropriate wheel types for environment or load, lack of adjustability or inadequate maintenance
  • Capacity of the person you care for: eg. inability to support their own weight due to muscle weakness, inability to understand instructions, have involuntary movements or have side effects from medication such as drowsiness.
  • Nature of loads handled: eg bulky and heavy loads in catering and laundry.
  • Environment: eg uneven work surfaces, space around beds and toilets.
  • The way you do something: eg working for long hours, staffing and timing issues

Further information

Further information about people handling particularly in relation to client assessment (care plans, mobility assessments), equipment, facility design, work organisation and bariatric issues can be found in the people handling section.

Common hazardous manual tasks:  people handling

Manual tasks in people’s homes and the community

Providing health care and social assistance can take place in people’s homes, such as healthcare home visits, aged care and disability assistance and the wider community such as child care facilities.

This sort of work frequently includes manual tasks which also involves the handling of people in their homes. Refer to the people handling section for further information about this hazardous manual task. Examples of common manual tasks include: assisting with transferring, bathing and dressing clients; pushing wheelchairs; loading and unloading from vehicles; moving furniture; gardening and maintenance tasks; and cleaning and other domestic tasks.

The main causes of injuries and illnesses for those working in people’s homes and the community are lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling; slips, trips and falls; and occupational violence.  The workplaces for this industry includes private homes (e.g. a house, unit or caravan, residential care homes, other community settings. 
Manual tasks injury risks exist when caring for people in their homes and in the community, and can come from a variety of different sources including:

  • Area and layout: eg the house may not be designed for wheelchairs or people requiring assistance.
  • Equipment: eg lack of equipment or limitations of equipment such as weight ratings, inappropriate wheel types for environment or load, lack of adjustability or inadequate maintenance.
  • Capacity of the person you care for: eg inability to support their own weight due to muscle weakness, inability to understand instructions, have involuntary movements or have side effects from medication such as drowsiness.
  • Nature of loads handled: eg overloaded shopping bags.
  • Environment: eg poor lighting or wet floors.
  • The way you do something: eg working alone, working for long hours or lack of training.

The WA Manual task guide for carers is designed to help carers identify and minimise the risk of injury. It contains information on:

  • how musculoskeletal disorders develop;
  • how to prevent injuries when performing manual tasks;
  • the risk management approach;
  • manual tasks that are known to be of high risk to home carers; and
  • some examples of high risk manual tasks and ways of minimising the risks.

Further information

Further information about people handling particularly in relation to client assessment, equipment, facility design, work organisation and bariatric issues can be found in the people handling section.

Common hazardous manual tasks:  people handling

Other documents on performing manual tasks in people’s homes and the community

Victoria

Queensland

The following information has been developed to assist community service providers, workers and people receiving services to make workplaces safer.

The interactive checklists below should be used in conjunction with the Guide to working safely in people's homes. The checklists are not exhaustive, and you may wish to use items according to your own circumstances. The checklists should be completed in consultation with the workers involved.

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