Health Workforce Safety in Remote Australia

Page last updated: 01 November 2017

Remote area health workforce safety and security has been a longstanding concern for all governments and employers.

Remote area health professionals are required to provide services in areas where there are often inadequate staffing levels, frequent calls out at night, professional isolation, violence in the workplace, limited supervision, concerns for personal safety, inadequate infrastructure or equipment and often within a cross cultural context. Remote area health workers are also required to work under these conditions whilst striving to meet the health demands of some of the most disadvantaged populations in Australia.

Employers are responsible for providing safe and secure working conditions for their staff. While the Commonwealth Government does not directly employ remote area health staff, it has invested in improving safety and security for the remote area health workforce by funding the Council of Remote Area Nurses of Australia (CRANAplus) to develop a suite of resources to assist and guide employers, health service providers, communities, clinicians and other health workers, to establish and maintain safe and effective working arrangements at remote health services.

The resources provide guidance in addressing the complexity of factors that influence remote area health workforce safety and security, such as:

• conducting hazard identification and risk assessments;
• ensuring staff are safe when on-call, and at other times when risks are identified;
• orientating staff to working in remote settings;
• ensuring the availability of reliable, accessible transport and emergency after-hours communication systems;
• providing access to patient information and data; and
• training staff in communication and de-escalation techniques.

The remote health workforce safety and security resources listed below are available on the CRANAplus website:

• the CRANAplus Safety and Security Guidelines for Remote and Isolated Health;
• a Working Safe in Remote and Isolated Health Handbook;
• the CRANAPlus Safety and Security Flow Charts that guide how to respond to a critical event;
• the Rapid Risk Assessment Tool that provides a framework for assessing safety issues in the clinic, community, and when on call;
• the Safety and Security Audit Tool to help identify significant issues contributing to personal safety;
• a webpage dedicated to Working Safely in Rural and Remote Australia Project; and
• an e-learning module on working safely in remote practice for their members.