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Key health and safety tips for general health and community services

These health and safety tips provide general information on ways to manage the most common hazards and risks in your industry. By following this guidance you will be going a long way to effectively managing health and safety in your workplace. However, every workplace is different and you must not take this information as being all that you need to do.

Biological hazards
Emergency preparedness and response
Hazardous substances
Latex allergy
Manual tasks
Occupational stress
Occupational violence
Personal Protective Equipment
Slips, trips and falls

Activities/instructions More information

  • Make your work and workplace safe by:
    • finding what is safe or unhealthy in your workplace
    • deciding what is the highest risk, what needs to be fixed first and how to go about fixing it.
    • taking action to fix the unsafe or unhealthy workplace problems
    • checking the problems are fixed and won’t happen again
    • having a site-specific health and safety induction
    • having specific training to do work safely
    • making sure personal protective equipment (PPE) is used where provided.

    Remember, everyone is responsible for workplace health and safety.

Biological hazards
Activities/instructions More information

  • Implement an occupational immunisation program if a risk management process shows that workers are at risk of acquiring a vaccine-preventable disease(s) (refer to the current edition of the Australian Immunisation Handbook).
  • Adopt standard precautions for all contact with blood and body fluids, including hand hygiene, personal protective equipment (PPE), appropriate handling and disposal of sharps and other clinical waste, cleaning, spills management and appropriate reprocessing of reusable equipment.
Activities/instructions More information

  • Use licensed electricians for electrical work.
  • Keep electrical equipment away from water.
  • Secure and protect extension leads from damage.
  • Check equipment and leads for damage before using.
  • Don’t use equipment that is damaged and label it accordingly.
  • Make sure all socket outlets are protected by a safety switch.
  • Use portable safety switches if the equipment is not protected by a fixed safety switch.
  • Make sure testing and tagging is current (if not protected by a safety switch).
  • Use waterproof covers or protect power points from water by keeping them clear from sources such as sinks.
Emergency preparedness and response
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make sure fire extinguishers are available and testing is current.
  • Make sure an emergency plan is available, covering a range of emergencies such as fire and chemical spills.
  • Brief workers on emergency evacuation plan.
Activities/instructions More information

  • Maintain equipment in good condition.
  • Repair or dispose of equipment that is damaged or no longer safe to use.
  • Use equipment only for intended purpose.
  • Make sure shelving is secure and not overloaded.
  • Make sure equipment, such as televisions are secure and will not topple over.
  • Make sure guards (where fitted) are in place when equipment is in use.
Activities/instructions More information

  • Where rostering is used –
    • make sure the roster provides for a continuous 7 to 8 hours sleep in each 24 hours, and at least 50 hours sleep for every seven days
    • limit number of consecutive night shifts to four
    • use forward shift rotation.
  • Make sure there are sufficient numbers of workers to cover for sick and annual leave.
  • Plan for overtime so that workers can schedule their activities around it.
  • Employ job rotation for repetitive tasks, or work that involves heavy physical demands.
  • Have contingency plans in place to allow for removing fatigued workers from work activities where there is a considerable risk to health or safety.
  • Schedule low risk work during periods of high fatigue.
  • Schedule complex tasks to be performed only during the day.
  • Have a policy on second jobs – make sure workers understand the obligation to have sufficient sleep.
  • Instruct workers about the effects of fatigue and ways to minimise it.
  • Advise workers they should plan their social activities and make sure they have sufficient sleep in order to do their job(s) safely.
Hazardous substances
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make sure drug preparation is undertaken by authorised persons in purpose-built rooms.
  • Make sure Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available for substances classified as hazardous.
  • Read the label and MSDS and follow relevant instructions.
  • Conduct risk assessments to minimise exposure to workers.
  • Store hazardous substances safely and securely when not in use.
  • Keep chemicals out of the reach of children and unauthorised persons.
  • Train workers in safe handling of hazardous substances.
  • Label hazardous substances (including safety and risk phrases).
  • Do not store hazardous substances in food and/or drink containers.
  • Store flammable and combustible liquids away from ignition sources.
  • Identify hazardous substances that pose additional risks to pregnant workers and control the risk of exposure (e.g. anaesthetic gases; cytotoxic drugs).
Latex allergy
Activities/instructions More information

  • Identify all products at the workplace which contain latex.
  • Use non-latex gloves for activities that do not involve a risk of infection, e.g. food handling, routine housekeeping.
  • Do not use powdered latex gloves.
  • Substitute powered latex gloves with lower risk products e.g. low protein, powder-free latex gloves or vinyl, nitrile or neoprene gloves.
  • Instruct workers to wash their hands with soap and water after glove removal.
  • Replace oil-based hand care products with water-based products, as oil-based products can cause latex deterioration and leaching of latex proteins.
  • Redesign tasks so that latex gloves are not required to be worn for prolonged periods.
  • Provide workers with information about latex allergy and appropriate control measures such as hand washing, and reporting signs of latex allergy.
  • Identify workers who have latex allergy or who are at increased risk of developing latex allergy.
  • Make sure workers who develop signs and symptoms of latex allergy receive prompt medical referral.
  • Seek specialist advice on glove selection for workers who have a latex sensitivity.
  • If a worker is at risk of anaphylaxis and requires emergency medication (such as an Epi Pen), make sure key people are trained in its use.
  • If a worker is diagnosed with an immediate allergic reaction, review the working environment to make sure that it is latex-safe and seek specialist advice as needed.
  • Make sure the work areas that may be contaminated by latex dust are cleaned regularly.

Manual tasks
Activities/instructions More information

  • For work involving hard physical effort:
    • organise work to reduce the physical force needed to lift, carry, move, hold or restrain items by positioning items as close as possible to where work is done
    • provide, use and maintain adequate mechanical and assistive devices (such as trolleys, hoists, wheelchairs) to minimise effort
    • train workers in safe use of equipment/devices, where provided
    • where possible, make sure flooring does not impede the use of wheeled equipment.
  • For work involving awkward working positions, workers should:
    • work in the straightest forward facing position
    • work with their arms close to their body, not reaching away or overhead
    • vary their position frequently and not stand, sit, kneel or squat for long periods
    • minimise bending and over reaching by, for example, adjusting working platforms for different working heights, and storing frequently used items between hip and shoulder height.
  • For work that is highly repetitive or involves tasks of long duration, workers should:
    • take regular breaks
    • work at a slower pace for tasks repeated frequently or done for long periods
    • vary work duties or working positions for example, alternate between standing and sitting activities
    • change work practices or obtain equipment to avoid repetitive actions or prolonged tasks.
  • Make sure all workers have received clear instructions and have been trained to perform the task safely.

Occupational stress
Activities/instructions More information

  • Assign appropriate amounts of work to workers.
  • Monitor work demands and control over work.
  • Provide support systems for talking about difficult situations at work.
  • Provide clear work structures, particularly through times of change.
  • Provide recognition and reward to workers.
Occupational violence
Activities/instructions More information

  • Use design or engineering measures to change the physical characteristics of the workplace to reduce the risk, for example, widen service desks, install barriers, enhance visibility and install security devices (such as security passes).
  • Change the systems of work or work practices to help reduce risks. For example:
    • increase the efficiency of services provided at peak times to reduce client frustration
    • limit the quantity of valuables (e.g. cash, drugs) stored at the workplace
    • train workers in aggressive behaviour management including the recognition and diffusion of potentially volatile situations
    • ensure sufficient number of appropriately trained workers, encourage workers to report incidents of occupational violence and act on these
    • advise workers of identified risks and control measures
    • provide for emergency communication.
  • Provide and instruct workers to use PPE appropriate to the level of risk.
  • Put control measures in place to manage any specific risks associated with individuals with challenging behaviours.
  • Implement adequate hand-over practices.
Personal Protective Equipment
Activities/instructions More information

  • Provide and instruct workers to use PPE where identified through risk assessment, company policy or manufacturers’ instructions, e.g. use of latex gloves.
  • Provide and instruct workers to use low protein, powder-free latex gloves to reduce the risk of latex allergy.
  • Provide and instruct workers to use non-latex gloves for activities that do not involve contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Provide respiratory protective equipment within the context of a respiratory protection program that includes instruction on respirator use, fit checking and fit testing.
Slips, trips and falls
Activities/instructions More information

  • Clean up contaminants and spills on the floor promptly.
  • Use slip-resistant flooring in areas likely to become wet or contaminated.
  • Ensure regular and adequate cleaning of floors.
  • Make sure working areas are kept clear and tidy.
  • Maintain floor surfaces in a good order (e.g. free from holes, curled carpet edges etc).
  • Make sure walkways are adequately lit and clear of clutter.
  • Consider the physical characteristics of people and the activity being undertaken.
  • Make sure footwear is suitable for the type of work and work environment.

Last updated 26 March 2012