LASA Fusion WInter 2016 Edition Article snapshot

In a recent survey of the aged care sector by the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, 36 per cent of respondents reported being physically assaulted by a resident or family member in the past five shifts*. In our own survey of over 1000 carers across Australia^, respondents averaged 2.0 incidents of aggression and/or violence in the 30 days prior to completing the survey, yet 50% of those who experienced such incidents chose not to report them. This tells us that the size of the problem is bigger than we think if we use reporting as our benchmark. Carers also believe the problem is growing. In fact 57% of respondents believe they will face more of these incidents going forward.

Further to these insights, WorkSafe has sent out letters recently advising of workplace inspections throughout 2016 with a key focus on “occupational violence”. The letter from WorkSafe gets straight to the point about work-related violence, stress, bullying and harassment:

“These are the kind of issues that, left unchecked, could cause serious injuries to your workers. We know the devastation that comes with workplace injuries – to the worker, their family, workmates and employer. And we know no employer wants to face a criminal conviction and significant fines if found guilty of breaching Occupational Health and Safety laws.
Are you prepared for a WorkSafe inspector to pop up at your workplace?”

We know all carers will be faced with aggressive behaviours throughout their careers. Are we doing enough to prepare and protect them?
Providing a culture that promotes continuous safety improvement and training your staff with the right tools is the most effective combination to managing aggressive behaviours.
Here are seven tips you can implement immediately to help you manage the impact of aggressive behaviours on your staff, the people they support, and your organisation:

1. Know Your Problem
Understand the specific nature and impact of aggressive behaviours for your organisation. Ask staff the right questions and actively seek out the answers.

Beware the assumptions we make when we do or do not have safety conversations.

2. Open Door Policy
Management, including senior management, should be accessible and available to their staff in order to build a culture of open discussion, analysis and resolution of problems including the management of aggressive behaviours.

To paraphrase General Colin Powell, “The day staff** stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

3. Meaningful Culture of Staff Safety
Foster a meaningful safety culture where staff safety and the wellbeing of the people you support takes precedence over daily to do lists.

4. Continuous Hazard Assessment
Increase the awareness of your staff of the space they are working in and the ever changing nature of the people they are working with.

The earlier identification of potential situations provides more options to achieve safer outcomes.

5. Empower Your Staff
Your staff will be amongst the first responders for incidents involving aggressive behaviours.

Empower your staff to make good decisions about their safety and the safety of those around them.

Provide your staff with the right tools to manage aggressive behaviours.

6. 60 Second Incident Report Form
The under reporting of incidents involving aggressive behaviours should not be underestimated.

In the absence of reliable incident reporting, how do you know what your staff are enduring (in silence) prior to the submission of their workers compensation claim?
Institute a 60 second Incident Report Form to capture the high frequency incidents that are currently not being reported. Routinely analyse the incident data to identify trends across staff and the people they support.

Then consider setting KPIs around incident reporting.

7. Employee Assistance Program
Would you walk around on a broken leg for 3 months before going to the hospital? Many of us will not seek help (or perhaps not know where to start) for a psychological injury. Encourage staff to actually use your Employee Assistance Program early. Getting help earlier will minimise the harm suffered as a result of the injury and start the healing sooner.
This article was first published in the Winter 2016 edition of Fusion The voice of aged care (LASA).
Should you wish to discuss strategies to manage aggressive behaviours affecting you or your team, please feel welcome to contact Holland Thomas & Associates.

Photo of Travis Holland

Travis Hol­land
Man­ag­ing Direc­tor
Hol­land Thomas & Asso­ciates
170117 WP TH Email Address

* From article, “Blood on the carpet: Worksafe gets graphic in ad campaign”, Nick Toscano, The Age, 19 February 2016.
^ Home Care, Community Car & Outreach Staff Safety Survey: Understanding the Effect of Aggression & Violence, Holland Thomas.
** General Colin Powell referred to soldiers.