Manual handling: What should you do when a colleague doesn’t follow procedure?

Resident wheelchair black and white

This is an issue that came to us at HelloCare through our Aged Care Worker Support Group on Facebook.

A member of the group observed a colleague who wasn’t using the correct manual handling techniques, who was adjusting the bed to a position she considered too high and was rushing.

Concerned her fellow worker would ignore her if she tried to correct him, the member put the question to the group: Should she report him to her manager?

Expert opinion: Refer to procedures

Angelika Koplin, Principal Consultant, Aged Care Strategies and Support, has had many years of experience working in and managing aged care homes.

Sometimes, if manual handling is not done correctly, “it may be necessary to correct the technique on the spot to avoid causing immediate harm,” she advised.

Koplin said situations such as these are not about “blame” or “reporting a fellow worker”. They are about improving procedures and keeping staff and residents safe. 

Staff should also refer to the home’s continuous improvement systems and incident reporting procedures – a regulatory requirement of all aged care homes – when they observe a colleague not following protocols. 

“If a staff member notices incorrect manual handling technique or ‘rushing’ whilst attending to residents, they should use the continuous improvement system in their organisation so this can be addressed and followed up.”

“In the end, it is about avoiding harm to residents as well as staff, and guidelines and policies are there for exactly that reason.”

Discuss then report

Answers from members of the support group were indicative of their collective practical, real-world aged care experience.

Most agreed the staff member should report the misconduct to her manager, in order to protect herself and the resident if an injury occurred or something went wrong.

And many also suggested discussing the matter with the other person, keeping talks friendly and respectful, not hostile or critical.

Some different approaches to raising the topic included asking the person why they perform manual handling the way they do, and then explaining the way you were shown to do it. Others suggested saying, “Maybe we could try it this way…?”

One worker said she would appreciate being told the correct way to do something if she wasn’t performing the task correctly.

Another person commenting on the post said their team is given manual handling training every six months and every time the instructions are different. Sometimes the bed is to be adjusted for the tallest person, but other times the shortest. Most recently it’s been recommended the bed be adjusted to a height in between the tallest and the shortest.

So, effectively, management needs to provide better clarity about the way they want tasks performed.

None of the aged care workers mentioned their home’s continuous improvement systems, although many proposed ‘reporting’ the matter, which would mean using their home’s incident reporting procedures.

Mistakes will always happen, and this is exactly why aged care homes have regulatory requirements for continuous improvement and compulsory reporting. 

Making sure staff are aware of continuous improvement procedures and incident reporting schemes is just as important as ensuring individual tasks are performed according to the book.

Have you witnessed manual handling procedures not being carried out in the correct way? Share in the comments below. 

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  1. My opinion only, if your co-worker is not using the correct procedure, discuss it with him/her in a nice manner (we all know how awful some staff are), it also needs reporting so that this particular person will go for another course to make sure that they are using the correct techniques.

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