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SafeWork SA's Glenn Farrell. Picture: SafeWork SA

Safety blitz: SA aged care to be audited

Residential aged care homes across South Australia will be audited by the safety regulator this month in a bid to reduce the risk of injury to residents and staff.

SafeWork SA inspectors will start compliance checks on how staff use equipment and other techniques to move residents with limited mobility from one location to another, such as transferring residents from a bed to a chair or bath, from a wheelchair to a toilet, or repositioning them in their bed.

Inspectors will also provide education, operational guidelines, and checklists to ensure staff follow correct procedures.

Facilities found to be non-compliant may be issued with compliance notices to remedy the matter within a specified timeframe if it cannot be addressed while the inspectors are on-site.

SafeWork SA executive director Glenn Farrell said they were there to help facilities reach long-term improvements.

"The audit will focus on both educating the industry on their obligations and ensuring compliance, requiring any improvements to be implemented within specific timeframes," Mr Farrell said.

"SafeWork SA will work with facilities so they can deliver long-term improvements to the way equipment is used to handle people."

The long-term campaign will look at staff access to appropriate training, accessible equipment that is also adequately maintained, and facilities properly controlling risks associated with the regulator's hazardous manual tasks.

SA Attorney General Kyam Maher said the campaign was important for both the workers and the residents.

"Residential aged care workers play a vital role in our community, and it's important to protect them from injury," Mr Maher said.

"Workers need the right skills, processes, and equipment to move residents safely.

"The campaign will also help protect aged care facility residents who are particularly vulnerable."

Manual handling of people has been a significant issue in the aged care sector.

From 2019 to 2023, ReturnToWork SA received an average of 733 claims from staff per year within residential aged care services.

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033 identified healthcare and the social assistance industry as a high-risk industry.

Lead organiser for aged care at the United Workers Union Donna Douglas said that staff and older Australians deserve to work and live in safe environments.

"Lack of quality and sufficient equipment in the sector is a concern for our members," Ms Douglas said.

"Workload and not having enough staff to safely care for the residents is both dangerous and heart breaking for our members.

"We look forward to the outcome of the audit."

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