Aged Care Worker Injury Prevention

The aged care sector includes workers who provide care, physical assistance, and supervision for the elderly in the home, residential settings, privately funded care, or hospitals. When it comes to this important and rewarding work of assisting and providing care daily, everyday tasks can pose risks to the health and wellbeing of the workers within this industry.

If your business operates in the aged care industry, it is important to be aware of those risks and take extra precautions to protect your workforce.

The most common hazards and risks associated with, but not limited to, the following tasks in the aged care sector:

  • Lifting, supporting, and moving individuals
  • Moving and handling equipment such as beds, mattresses, trolleys, and wheelchairs
  • Occupational violence and aggression
  • Work-related stress
  • Bullying and harassment.

Of these risks, those that fall under the category of manual handling risks remain the most common cause of injuries for workers in aged care facilities.

Types of Injuries

High rates of work-related musculoskeletal injuries continue to occur for health care workers, which are directly related to high-risk manual handling tasks such as lifting individuals from a bed to a chair, handling heavy objects and moving furniture.

According to WorkSafe Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa, health care workers have one of the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders among all occupational groups (WorkSafe 2023). Nurses, carers, cleaners, laundry, maintenance, administration, and kitchen staff are all at risk of sustaining sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries.

Workers are also susceptible to psychological injury such as work-related stress that derives specifically from conditions in the workplace. Psychosocial hazards (occupational hazards degrading psychological well-being) occur where aspects of the job, including job overload, low job control, conflict or poor workplace relationships and bullying, cause a stress response (WorkSafe 2019).

Current Statistics

In 2022, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) reported that of the ten occupation group categories, the ‘health and community services’ occupation group – which includes aged care workers – ranked sixth in terms of top new work-related claims. The top three occupation groups included construction, manufacturing and agriculture/forestry/fishing.

Controls to Reduce/Prevent Workplace Injuries

As reported by 1News, according to the ACC, for the period 1 January 2021 to 30 November 2022, workplace claims involved various employment tasks, lifting, lowering, loading, and unloading along with walking and running. The most common workplace injuries were soft tissue injuries (contusion, strain, sprain), lacerations, punctures, stings and fractures or dislocations.

Lifting and assisting residents

  • Reduce the frequency of manual lifting of individuals, except in life-threatening situations, by providing appropriate mechanical aids and equipment.
  • Provide workers with education/training on how to assist individuals in their own transfers.
  • Train workers in safe handling methods and how to safely use any mechanical aids and equipment that is part of their job.

Pushing and pulling equipment (e.g., trolleys and wheelchairs) 

  • Identify ways to minimise injuries related to a particular task.
  • Ergonomically assess the workplace to reduce the need to push or pull equipment on a frequent basis
  • Train workers in safe handling methods and how to safely use any mechanical aids and equipment that is part of their job.

Slips, trips and falls 

  • Make recommendations on appropriate footwear to prevent slips, trips and falls.
  • Provide regular updates and education on hazard identification that may cause slips, trips and falls.
  • Provide height access equipment, and the necessary training, that requires workers to operate above shoulder height. This will reduce the need for workers to operate beyond their centre of balance.

Work-related stress, bullying and harassment 

  • Regularly assess psychosocial risk factors and implement changes.
  • Regular education and training on psychosocial risk factors – what is it and how to manage it.
  • Implement appropriate policies and procedures for workplace bullying and harassment including mental health first aid training to educate and support workers.
  • Provide access to, and encourage workers, to use counselling or support services where possible, for example introducing an accredited employee assistance program.

Be an employer of choice

Organisations are looking at moving beyond injuries in the workplace. Better injury prevention strategies and technology are being introduced to anticipate and adapt to evolving risks. While there is no way to eliminate injuries, there are programs, tools and actions than can reduce them, including:

  • Promoting and communicating safety with regular safety briefings, including safety as a beginning topic in meetings and employee safety training.
  • Routinely checking for safety hazards, like spills or obstacles.
  • Enforcing proper attire that is necessary for accident prevention, like safety glasses, gloves or slip-resistant shoes.
  • Providing onsite physiotherapy resulting in immediate assessment, diagnosis and treatment of an injury, reducing loss of productivity and costs associated with workers leaving the workplace to be treated by an offsite health provider.
  • Onsite injury prevention and health surveillance programs monitoring workers on a regular basis to ensure their working environment does not negatively or adversely affect their overall health.

In addition to onsite injury prevention strategies mentioned earlier, organisations can introduce preventative measures such as pre-employment screenings, health assessments, mental health first aid training, manual handling training, task-specific training, job task analysis as well as high-level controls involving hazard identification, risk assessment, risk controls, and reviewing control measures.

There are undoubtedly complex hazards that exist within the aged care industry. With the right preventative measures, you can protect yourself and your workers to ensure a positive working environment with a lower incidence of injuries attributable to manual tasks.

Bodycare NZ’s comprehensive injury prevention methods of care can assist by providing a framework designed to lower the prevalence of risks and costs associated with injuries in the workplace. Further opportunities to provide onsite injury prevention means that care can be tailored using context-specific environmental strategies that can improve safety for all stakeholders in aged care.




WorkSafe 2019

WorkSafe 2023