The importance of preventing injuries to carers

Carers are rightfully receiving a great deal of public attention and gratitude at the moment. They are looking after our most vulnerable loved ones at a hugely worrying time.

Whether in care homes or in the community, carers are continuing to work on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.

Risk of injury

Apart from the increased risk to their safety from the pandemic, these individuals can suffer a variety of injuries as a direct result of the work they do.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reported that in the human health and social work sector, 30% of injuries to workers were musculoskeletal disorders in 2019/20.

Indeed, the HSE also reported that roughly 4.7% of workers in the sector suffered from work-related ill health – both new and long-standing cases. This is significantly higher than the average rate seen across all industries – 3.4%.

This is perhaps unsurprising, given the physical nature of the job. Carers often have to lift and carry service users and residents. They may need to get them into or out of bed, into the bathroom or into a wheelchair. And this can take a toll on their own health.

According to the NHS, “the most common injuries carers get are back injuries”. And when this happens, it can put them out of action for a while. This can lead to increased workloads for colleagues and service users not receiving the level of care they may previously have had. And when resources are stretched, further accidents may be more likely, perpetuating the cycle.

Legal rights after an accident

It’s up to an employer to ensure an employee knows the appropriate techniques when it comes to manual handling, lifting and carrying. This means they must train carers in order to carry this task out properly and avoid injuring anyone – either the carer or a service user.

The necessary risk assessments should be carried out. If the results of these show that lifting is not a safe manoeuvre, the action should not go ahead.

Any equipment used for work must be properly maintained and in good working order. If there are any problems with any piece of equipment, it should not be used.

The appropriate personal protective equipment should be provided for every task that requires it. If it is not, the work should be postponed until the right PPE can be provided.

Therefore, if an employer has not provided the necessary training or has allowed work to go on without a risk assessment or the correct actions to mitigate risk, they could be liable for whatever injury a carer sustains. When this is the case, the carer could then take legal action.

It makes sense, therefore, that employers pay particular attention to the safety of the carers in their employ. The health and safety of many of our loved ones could depend on it.

Image copyright: Anna LoFi