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Fail safe

There needs to be more dialogue about workplace aggression and violence, a new report shows. 

Results from the recent The Home Care, Community Care and Outreach Staff Safety Survey reveal workers believe the number and seriousness of incidents involving aggression and/or violence is on the rise.

Nearly 1060 respondents from 256 Australian organisations – 52 per cent of whom worked in aged care – reported on their experience of aggression on the previous 30 days. Participants pointed to workplace challenges, which include lack of training in de-escalating aggressive behaviours, lack of support from employers and poor policy and procedures.

Nearly 90 per cent of respondents reported that the number of incidents involving aggression and violence is at best likely to remain at the same level, with most thinking it’s going to rise.

This should be a “significant concern” for organisations, the report said, as staff are less likely to provide high-quality care and think clearly in stressful situations. They are also more likely to make poor decisions about their safety and have a greater chance of transferring the stress to the people they are supporting.

In the event of an incident involving aggression or violence, only a third of people felt they were “very well prepared” to manage their safety. Despite this though, a large gap was evident between those who thought further training was “very important” and “important” and the 31 per cent to 45 per cent of respondents who have not received appropriate training to manage these risks when supporting clients.

Travis Holland, managing director of Holland Thomas and Associates, said an environment where staff can be open about the safety challenges within the workplace will allow employers and organisations better understanding of and ability to improve staff safety.

He confirmed the biggest surprise was the size of the psychological incidents. Thirty per cent of incidents involving aggression and or violence resulted in the worker suffering a psychological injury. This resulted in a psychological injury for nearly 15 per cent of respondents.

Holland warned there are anecdotal signs that psychological injuries could become the next back injury. “The return to work following a psychological injury is usually longer than for physical injuries. It’s becoming a relatively expensive claim. You can’t measure it and you can’t say whether it is fixed or not, so it becomes very difficult.”

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