The Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) has issued revised guidance on health and safety in care homes, this replaces the previous version which was published in 2001.
The guidance draws together key themes which are relevant to all employers, such as managing health and safety and work-related stress, but also explores areas of particular risk to care providers, such as the risks arising from hot water and surfaces and a new chapter on the safe use of bed rails.
Although the guidance is primarily aimed at care homes, it is likely to be relevant to care providers more generally. For example, chapter 3 on moving and handling provides guidance on moving and handling arrangements, including person-centred assessments and load handling assessments; moving and handling equipment, including the use of hoists and slings and electric profiling beds; and training. It also provides a list of key points for care providers to consider. This guidance would also be helpful for care operators providing domiciliary care where employees are expected to be involved in moving and handling service users.
As acknowledged in the guidance, its publication comes at a time of continued change to the regulatory landscape. The HSE’s Triennial Review Report, published earlier this year, referred to the “complex interface” between the HSE and Care Quality Commission (“CQC”) and supported the government’s proposals to strengthen CQC’s approach to enforcement and make changes to the way in which HSE and CQC work together: to be reflected in a new CQC/HSE Liaison Agreement.
Some of these proposals are already underway, and a significant change is that CQC is expected to become the lead investigator where service users have been harmed because of unsafe or poor quality care. It remains to be seen how these changes will work in practice, and in particular how the CQC will resource its new responsibilities. The proposed changes will affect the way in which the relevant standards are enforced, but not the underlying health and safety standards themselves. In view of this, the guidance provides limited legal referencing, and focuses on providing practical guidance for care providers.
In light of the ongoing changes to the regulation of social care, providers should not expect the new guidance to remain in place for over a decade, as was the case for the previous version. However, the publication of the new guidance does serve as a useful prompt for care providers to review their health and safety arrangements to ensure that they are sufficiently robust and take into account the particular risks and challenges posed by operating in the care sector.