People handling tasks are hazardous and many AINs, ENs, personal care workers and disability support workers (herein referred to as carers) have experienced musculoskeletal injury as a result. In 2019 a group of stakeholders from industry, unions, WH&S and occupational rehabilitation came together to discuss the issues which continue to give rise to high rates of work-related injury in aged care and disability services.
It was agreed that people handling remains a hazardous manual task despite the well-established use of mechanical aides. It was hypothesised that the continued high rates of injury may be partly related to a lack of skills and knowledge among carers to conduct a mobility assessment and to select optimal people handling techniques and equipment.
In 2020, with funding from Workcover Queensland, Back on Track commenced a pilot project to develop a method to screen for changes in mobility. That method was developed with collaboration from nurses and carers in aged care and trialled at Wesley Mission Queensland along with assistance from subject matter experts including Simone Hepburn, Physiotherapist, and Jenny Bates, RN and Ergonomist. Nurses were trained in the use of a mobility screening process and their feedback sought. Following COVID-19 restrictions, the project shifted to developing online training resources which included instructional videos, an e-learning module and web-based app to guide carers to select appropriate people handling techniques and equipment. (Note that Mobility Screening does not replace allied health assessment, but may result in a temporary change in the mobility care plan while awaiting allied health or nursing assessment.)
Thanks to funding from WorkCover Queensland, resources have been made freely available at www.mobilityscreen.com.au
Mobility Screening has been shown effective in supporting carers to make sensible operational decisions when faced with a change in their client’s presentation. It empowers workers to make a temporary change in the mobility care plan and avoids proceeding with ‘business as usual’ when the circumstances have clearly changed. Early findings from pilot projects indicate that Mobility Screening reduces injury rates among staff.
Outcomes from the pilot project completed at Churches of Christ in June 2022 include:
- Staff incident data, albeit from a small data set, showed a reduction in sprains and strains during the pilot.
- Staff perceive that Mobility Screening reduces their risk of injury from hazardous people handling tasks (100% agreement) and also reduces resident risk of injury (100% agreement).
- After 1 – 1½ hours of training including use of online resources and practice of the physical screening tests, 97% of staff report confidence in mobility screening. This declined to 88% 3 months after training, suggesting that further support is needed to incorporate Mobility Screening into standard work practice for carers.
- Over time there was reduction in perceived usefulness in Mobility Screening to reduce staff exposure to aggression or violence from 87% to 73%. Nevertheless, the perceived usefulness remains high.
- There was a reduction in reported musculoskeletal discomfort over 3 months from 56% of respondents down to 45%.
- There was a reduction in reported exposure to resident aggression from 80% of respondents to down to 73%.
Get in touch with Back on Track if you would like assistance with injury prevention strategies for your valued staff.