Since introducing an injury prevention program five years ago, Western Australian not-for-profit provider Amana Living has experienced a 70 per cent reduction in workers compensation claims, placing its safety incident rate among the lowest in the industry.
A key element of the program is the clear matching of staff competencies with the physical requirements of the job, said Amana Living general manager of human resources Jenny Williams.
All potential candidates undergo a pre-employment physical assessment to ensure they have the capacity to meet the physical demands of the work.
“A physical job description has been developed for each role and every person coming into the organisation is assessed against the capacities that are required to carry out each task safely,” Ms Williams told Australian Ageing Agenda.
She said if candidates failed some areas of the assessment, they are often provided with advice or exercises so they can improve to a point where they can meet the physical requirements of the job.
“It’s not necessarily screening them out, it’s more about having a look at are they able to come into the organisation at the present time,” she said. “Often we will have people who will come back and they will successfully get positions with us once they are well and able to do the job.”
Manual handling training is also a compulsory part of staff induction, and is revised after three months and then annually. “It’s very strongly reinforced to all staff about what safe practice is and what good practice is to make sure that they keep themselves and our clients safe,” Williams said.
Supplementing the injury prevention program is the early identification of injuries and a safe return to work program. As part of a staged return to work, staff may be offered a small number of shifts, lighter duties, adaptive equipment or work at alternative Amana Living site.
The organisation also has a policy of supporting employees regardless of whether it is a work-related or non-work-related injury or illness.
Some 97 per cent of employees who experience an injury have been able to return to work within a couple of weeks, said Williams.
“We are highly proactive with staff when they are injured. Our injury management and wellness manager is in contact and working with people in the first 24 hours of an injury and she works with them every step of the way to ensure that people can return safely to work and very quickly.”
The organisation also takes a broad view of staff wellness to include access to counselling, financial support and advice and retirement planning in partnership with superannuation, insurance and employee assistance program providers.
“They are the sorts of things that weigh on people’s minds and impact their focus on the job and retention,” said Williams. “If we can help support our staff in other areas of their life, it allows them to be more positive and more focussed when they are on the job as well.”
Amana Living’s injury prevention program won in the health and wellbeing category at the 2014 Aged & Community Services WA Excellence in Care Awards held in June.