Home healthcare is a fast growing industry. Home healthcare is given at client sites and not a central worksite, so your safety program needs to be flexible and comprehensive to protect you from hazards and injury on the job.
One of the main concerns for home healthcare workers is ergonomic injury. Transferring, bathing, and dressing patients can cause musculoskeletal disorders if these tasks are not done correctly. Patients may be large, unresponsive, combative, or otherwise limited in mobility. In addition, patient homecare rooms may be small and the beds non-adjustable. Ensure that there is adequate equipment (rental or purchased) on the jobsite to lift the patient and adjust them. Watch your body mechanics; keep the patient and the lift close to you. Keep a straight back and use your legs to power the lift. Get training in patient transfers and good ergonomics.
Practice infection control not just for the patient’s safety, but for your own as well. Wear gloves and coveralls over your clothing to prevent contamination. Wash your hands frequently. Know the patient’s health condition. Monitor for airborne diseases and wear respiratory protection if it is necessary. Use universal precautions and treat all sharps, blood, and other bodily fluids as if they may be contaminated. Wear latex or nitrile gloves at all times when handling patients and their body fluids.
Needlesticks are a hazard for homecare workers. Family members and patients may leave syringes and lancets exposed, so inspect work areas carefully to avoid an accidental stick. Consider needleless devices, shields, or other safety features. Ensure that there is a sharps disposal container at the site for your used needles and those that the patient generates. Never recap a needle, break it, or tamp down garbage—you could get an accidental stick. Get training in bloodborne pathogens and needlestick prevention.
Personal safety is very important in home healthcare. Visiting patients in the community, entering private homes, and handling patients with behavior problems all put you at risk. Get training in handling violent behavior. Maintain communication with your employer so they know where you are at all times. Program local emergency numbers into your cell phone and keep it handy at all times. Do not enter a home that has loose weapons, aggressive animals, or other security threats.