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Planning Ahead – Health and Safety

Health and safety is one of the biggest components of social care – not only are you responsible for the safeguarding of those you’re caring for, but also that of your employees and members of the public.
With many laws and regulations in place to make sure social care environments are secure and appropriate for the task at hand, it’s vital that care providers are compliant with these and that employees have the necessary tools and training to perform their jobs safely.

Perhaps the most important way to ensure a care environment meets health and safety standards is through staff training. This is the most effective way to make sure employees understand and follow regulations, creating an environment where all operations are carried out safely and appropriately.

Training should be based on a review of current legislation, guidelines, statutory guidance, standards and recommendations. This will allow employees to recognise what makes a health and safety-compliant environment for everyone, such as maintaining cleanliness, fire safety measures, adequate ventilation, safe equipment, individualised care plans and emergency response protocols. Emotional health and safety should also be considered, for example respecting clients’ privacy and addressing mental health.

It’s also important to consider that delivering health and safety training once isn’t enough – refreshing your employees’ knowledge and skills in a variety of topic areas is vital. Workers must be kept up to date with current legislation and best practice, otherwise, how can they apply this to their work? Refresher training should be delivered at specific time intervals and employees’ competence should be monitored and feedback gathered, to ensure they continue to demonstrate the skills required for their role.

In a social care environment, everybody on the premises is exposed to some type of risk. Things such as moving vehicles in a car park, challenging behaviour from clients, falling, handling hazardous substances, and moving and handling are all things that should be considered.

It’s a shared responsibility to keep the service safe, but there should be an individual to report health and safety concerns to – whether this is in the interest of employee safety, client safety, or both.
This individual should use risk assessments to inspect a care environment to identify these sorts of hazards and the risks they pose, as well as consider who could be at risk and how to prevent them from harm. Once this is done, method statements can then be prepared to implement effective safety measures.

Written health and safety policies are also a legal requirement and are important when communicating procedures to the whole company. To accompany this, approved health and safety posters should be displayed where they are visible to every worker – and if this isn’t possible, provide leaflets with the same information.

In late 2022, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) developed a new strategy for the changing world of health and social care, which combines learnings and experiences from the past five years to improve care for everyone.

The new strategy is purposefully ambitious and focuses on four themes: people and communities, smarter regulation, safety through learning, and accelerating improvement. The new strategy allows care providers to be more forward-thinking with their health and safety considerations, promoting stronger learning cultures and encouraging employees to speak up about safety issues where they work – including safeguarding issues.

For any care provider, health and safety should be of utmost importance. Not only is it a legal requirement, but also a moral one – allowing you to provide the very best service possible and be the employer of choice, resulting in healthy and happy clients and employees all around.