As a health care professional, prioritizing your own safety is just as important as your client’s. Below are some insights and reminders for keeping yourself safe while working in someone else’s home.
Think safety first before entering a client’s home
There’s a lot you can do by yourself to enhance your own safety. One simple example is to park as close to your client's location as you can in a highly visible and well-lit area. Other actions you can take to stay safe going to and from a client’s home include:
- When you are in the car, keep the windows rolled up and the doors locked.
- Pay attention to your surroundings.
- Stay alert and walk briskly with your head up.
- Carry your bag or keys in one hand and a whistle, or some other personal alarm, in the other.
- Check front and rear seats before getting into your car.
Fall prevention is important for you, too
Clients aren’t the only ones at risk of injury due to a fall. In fact, a common cause of injury for home health professionals is a slip, trip, or fall. You can eliminate a lot of these risks by noticing hazards in a client’s home and having your employer or the client address them. Here are some things to be on the lookout for:
- Slippery floors
- Frayed, loose, or curling edges of carpet or flooring
- Open drawers, throw rugs, or clutter
- Electrical cords, oxygen tubes, or wires
- Steps or ramps covered with ice, snow, or leaves
- Uneven sidewalks or gravel driveways
- Stairs without handrails
Protect yourself against the physical demands of the job
Providing home care services can be physically demanding work, so take every precaution to prevent musculoskeletal problems.
Use safe body mechanics
- Maintain your body’s three natural curves when moving, bending, and lifting.
- When moving your client, make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart with one foot a half step ahead of the other.
- Position yourself close to the object or client.
- Bend your knees and lift with your legs.
- Raise the bed to a comfortable height when assisting with transfers, etc.
- Move your feet when turning.
- Break heavy loads down into lighter, smaller trips.
Transferring clients safely
First, make sure your client understands what you are doing and what you need him or her to do.
- Be sure to lock all equipment brakes and secure all connections.
- Use all transfer devices as directed.
- Never allow your client to put arms around your neck.
- Never try to stop your client from falling. When possible, without injuring yourself, control your client’s fall by easing them to the floor.
Responsible employers prioritize their employees’ safety
Reputable and responsible home health care employers, such as BAYADA, are very concerned about worker safety and should have a clinical office leader or other knowledgeable leader do a home assessment before you arrive for your first shift. Though you are typically working by yourself, with a reputable employer, you are not there alone. In addition to the priority home visit, you should expect policies and standards such as:
- Provision of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Regular safety education training
- Providing of protective safety devices when appropriate
- Investigating and logging all employee concerns
- Immediate support for uncomfortable or unsafe situations
Seek immediate support for uncomfortable or unsafe situations
If you experience an incident in a client’s home that makes you feel personally unsafe, report it immediately to your manager or supervisor. Responsible employers won’t hesitate to take action and, if necessary, undertake formal procedures such as:
- Reporting violent incidents to appropriate law enforcement, health care, and social services agencies
- Informing you of your legal right to prosecute perpetrators of violence
- Determining how to prevent additional problems
In addition, some companies—like BAYADA—offer an Employee Assistance Program, which provides legal, financial, and emotional support services, typically at no charge to the employee.
Trusting your instincts can be your best defense
Although it’s impossible to avoid or prevent every potentially dangerous situation, being consistently safety conscious goes a long way to significantly reducing the chances of being injured on the job.