Keeping Safe Before Hitting the Road
Even before caregivers begin their workdays, they can start off on safe footing by taking these important steps:
- Share schedules. Make sure that someone knows your schedule and when you’re expected to arrive at each destination.
- Be prepared. Keep extra personal protection equipment, like gloves and masks, in cars in case supplies are missing at the client’s home.
- Be proactive. Service vehicles regularly to ensure they’re in optimal driving condition. If caregivers frequently drive in snowy conditions, they should equip their vehicles with snow tires or chains.
On the Road Again: Staying Safe While on the Move
While the current winter weather brings a unique set of driving conditions, staying safe is a year-round endeavor. Caregivers should follow these tips while on the road:
- Minimize distractions. While in the car, driving is the priority — not texting, making calls, eating, programming music, or the GPS. Eliminate as many distractions as possible to focus on the task at hand: getting to the next client safely.
- Know where to go. Caregivers should enter destinations in the GPS before driving, even if they think they’re familiar with the area. Besides helping them get where they need to be, a pre-programmed GPS can offer detours in the event of road closures, traffic, or accidents. Your agency might consider implementing a mobile technology solution that includes optimized routing as well, to minimize driving time.
- Be prepared. Workers should always keep their gas tanks full in the winter; the rest of the year, they should keep at least a ¼ tank of gas. Store an emergency supply kit in the car that includes food and water, a blanket, an extra set of clothes, a flashlight and batteries, and flares.
- Keep an eye on the skies. Torrential rains can quickly mean flooded roadways. Drivers have less control over vehicles as waters rise, and it’s difficult — and risky — to gauge if you can continue on. It’s best to turn around instead of risking being swept away by rushing floodwaters.
Rain isn’t the only weather concern. If a tornado warning is issued for the area, caregivers should pull over and take cover in the lower level of a building or, if in an isolated area, seek shelter in a ditch. During snowstorms, they should travel only when absolutely necessary, driving only during daylight hours and staying on main roads.
Regardless of the weather event, caregivers should heed all travel advisories.
- Be flexible. Your agency’s caregivers spend a lot of time driving, which can make for stiff muscles. Provide car exercises they can do when stopped at a red light, and encourage them to take a few minutes to stretch out any kinks once they arrive at their destination.
6. Take advantage of sunlight. During the winter hours, daylight is at a premium. Avoid driving after the sun goes down, especially in unfamiliar areas.
Increasing Awareness of Home-Based Safety Issues
The safety risks don’t disappear once your caregivers reach their clients. Remote worker safety is equally important when staff is conducting their client visits. Here are steps caregivers can take to minimize risks in and around clients’ homes:
- Be aware of surroundings. Whether they’re visiting a client in a new neighborhood or in one they’ve been to a dozen times, caregivers should be aware of what’s going on around them. They should park in well-lit areas when possible and keep doors locked, windows rolled up, and valuables (including medical supplies) out of sight. Caregivers should keep their keys in hand when walking to their cars so they can activate the panic alarm if needed and can quickly unlock their cars.
If they’re arriving at the client’s home and see suspicious activity, encourage them to continue a few blocks, pull over and call you for advice on how to proceed.
- Minimize distractions. Clients with pets should put them away during their home health visit. Animals can be unpredictable, even if they appear nonthreatening and the caregiver is familiar with them. If left in the room during the visit, the pets may distract caregivers and clients.
Distractions can also come from disruptive, though well-intentioned, family members. They should also remain in another room during the visit.
- Be mindful of limitations. Back injuries from lifting or moving patients are common for home health workers, so they must practice good body mechanics. They should be properly trained on — and not afraid to use — assistive devices.
- Be mindful of household hazards. Slips, trips, and falls are common in the home health setting, so caregivers should keep an eye out for debris-littered floors and steps up or down into a room.
They must also be aware of the risk of sharps that haven’t been properly disposed of. While home health workers are responsible for the safe use and disposal of sharps in a client’s home, clients and their family members may not take the same care.
- Listen to their gut instinct. If caregivers feel threatened at any time during a home visit or have safety concerns, they should contact you immediately.
Tips for Remote Healthcare Workers Provided by CellTrak: