NOTE: This document has been updated to provide specific information around Coronavirus COVID-19. 12 March 2020
Outlined below are some of the hazards that you might come across in the disability support environment as well as the controls that can be used to keep you, the people you support, and the community safe and healthy.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and other Respiratory Illness - Infection Control and Hygiene
With the current coronavirus pandemic, it is extremely important to be aware of the risks of coronavirus and how to reduce this.
Coronavirus is a respiratory illness which is thought to be generally spread through person to person. Symptoms include body aches, fever, sneezing, coughing, nausea/vomiting.
As always, it is important that you practice good hygiene. This includes:
- Washing your hands before shift, between tasks and at the end of the shift. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Washing your hands effectively is the most practical thing you can do to reduce the risk of infection to yourself and others.
- If you are out and about and can’t get to a tap. Make sure you have a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol available
- Use a tissue if you need to cough or sneeze. Dispose of the tissue and thoroughly wash hands
- If you don’t have access to a tissue, cover your cough - cough into the crease of your elbow
- Frequently wipe down surfaces when suitable (eg. in home support
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
Other things to consider include monitoring your health, and when necessary, cancelling/rescheduling shifts to prevent exposure to illness.
Surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus disease from spreading it to others. If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask as there is little evidence supporting the widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people to prevent transmission in public
Please ensure you monitor your personal health, consult with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms and inform Hireup of your doctors advice and of any infection risk to others Hireup users.
If you believe you are at risk of infection of coronavirus, please contact Hireup immediately.
If you or the person you are supporting has recently travelled overseas, please contact the Hireup Support team immediately for guidance.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - Infection Control and Hygiene
PPE refers to anything used or worn to promote the health and safety of both support workers and those seeking support. This could include:
- First aid equipment
PPE is useful, but it is also just one measure that can be put in place to minimise the exposure to various hazards. Other measures such as elimination and good infection control should also be explored as more effective control measures.
The type of PPE used should be based on the level of risk associated with the environment that you’re working in and the potential for exposure to infection.
For more details on infection management at Hireup see our guide.
Always read the information provided on the labels of the chemicals you are being asked to handle (for cleaning or gardening as an example), and if you're uncomfortable with the chemicals you’ve been asked to use, or if they are beyond household grade (common cleaning products), you have the authority to stop unsafe work and contact Hireup immediately.
To avoid any harm, a number of controls can be implemented to manage your exposure, including:
- Eliminate the hazard: If necessary, communicate with the person and/or family you’re working with to eliminate the hazardous substance from the environment. This is the most effective control measure.
- Using something less hazardous: Is there a safer or less hazardous substance that can be used as a substitution?
- Personal Protective Equipment: Communicate with the person and/or family you’re working with to ensure that you have access to the appropriate PPE while providing specific supports. Eg. If you’re being asked to dress a wound, having access to gloves.
Vehicles and Driving
Whether you’re driving a car that you own, or one owned by the person you’re supporting or their family, a number of safety precautions need to be considered when using a vehicle.
Some important questions to be aware of and ask are:
- Is your licence valid in the state or territory that you’re working in?
- Is the vehicle you’re planning to drive registered and insured (Compulsory Third Party Insurance (CTP) as a minimum)?
- Does the vehicle you’re driving have comprehensive insurance that covers you as a driver?
- Can you legally drive the vehicle if it has been modified for the person you’re supporting? If so, are you comfortable driving the vehicle?
- Is the vehicle maintained and roadworthy?
- Do you know who to contact if an incident occurs while driving?
- Is there a safe space in the car to store any support equipment e.g wheelchairs?
We understand that each environment you drive in may present different hazards, depending on the time of the day you're driving, other drivers on the road or the weather. In these situations, it's important to stop and think about whether the hazard could harm you, the person you're supporting or someone in the community.
Remember, when working and driving on Hireup, you must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Hireup has developed a Transport Guide for Support Workers.
The support that you provide could involve the use of electrical devices, like a vacuum cleaner or common household appliances. If so, it’s important to be aware of any hazards that may cause danger, including:
- Damaged or frayed electrical cords
- Damaged and older electrical appliances
- Electrical faults that could cause a fire
- Using electrical appliances around water
- Using electricity outdoors
The Industry Development Fund has more information on electrical safety.
Emergency Safety Plan
We know that unexpected emergencies can occur while providing support, so it’s important to make yourself familiar with each individual’s support plan. Here you can find vital information about the person you’re supporting, including:
- Emergency contact details
- Medical considerations
- Safety assessment (in the home, in the community and transport)
We recommend going over the emergency plan with the person you’re supporting and/or their family on your first shift.
When it comes to fire safety, controls should be implemented to eliminate or mitigate fire-related incidents. Going into someone's home, it will be important to know the emergency escape plan (found in the support plan), if there are working smoke alarms and where you can find fire safety equipment if it's available.
Miscellaneous Tools and Equipment
Before you use any equipment, it’s important that you have experience in operating it, or have been shown by the appropriate person how to operate it safely. For example, if you were being asked to use a hoist that you hadn’t used previously, a detailed demonstration by the appropriate person would be important.
If you are being asked to operate equipment that you’re not comfortable using, or feel as if it could compromise the safety of you and the person you’re supporting, you have the authority to stop unsafe work and contact Hireup immediately.
Common incidents that need to be reported to Hireup:
- Near misses
- Complaints about a working relationship
- Harm caused to yourself or others
- Hazards compromising anyone’s safety
- Ethics and Integrity - if you notice illegal and fraudulent activity
Reporting an incident
If you need to report any incident, big or small, contact Hireup by logging into your account and using our 24-hour online incident report form.
Version 2 I Revision date: March 2020 I All previous versions are superseded I © Hireup Pty Ltd.
This document will be reviewed annually unless legislative or organisational changes require earlier review.