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Photograph of Ross Hyams.

The Ross Hyams perspective

Ross Hyams is an educator and law practitioner. Here, Ross presents his unique perspective on the essential things you need to know about torts law.

The case studies and analyses explored our legal duty to our ‘neighbour’ to take care in our actions that could place them in harm’s way. We also know that the ‘standard of care’ the law expects is measured against a range of factors, including: probability, gravity, social utility and practicality.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen. But, by thinking about and taking steps to minimise and avoid accidents, you can use these four factors to assist reduce the amount of risk in a given situation.

Let’s use an example of the staff at an aged care facility who want to organise a day excursion for residents to a significant historical place and lunch at a nature reserve. You can probably already identify some foreseeable risks and some proactive steps the staff can take to avoid accidents, as well as negligence claims.

Can you think of any others? If so, consider sharing them with other learners in the Comments section of this step.

Plan ahead

Formally consult with other staff and think about the overall suitability of the excursion for residents. Is the organisation experienced in delivering group activities like this? What knowledge do other staff have or ‘lessons’ they can share with the planning group about activities like this?

Travel arrangements

Plan the most appropriate travel arrangements possible. Can you use an experienced bus/travel service for aged clients? Does the bus have adjustable access and low floors? Does it have suitable storage for other walking aids and equipment residents might have?

Physical care needs

Do residents have particular care needs that you can provide, like one-to-one staffing, or mobility assistance? Are some resident’s prone to slips and falls and is the physical environment for the excursion unsuitable because it has no footpaths or old bushland walking paths?

Medical care needs

Consider whether some residents have particular medication or care needs on a daily basis, and whether the excursion can be planned around these needs, or if the excursion can be shortened to make sure that these needs are met.

Preview and check ahead

It might be a good idea to attend where you plan to go for the excursion in advance and see if it really is a suitable environment for the residents. Are there any hazards?

Options for help

Plan for emergency services needs, just in case. Know where the nearest hospital, medical practice, pharmacy, police station is and have communication methods in place in case they are needed. Avoid travelling to areas where there is no mobile phone coverage, for example.

Prepared staff

Think about the right number and mix of experience of staff that will be required for the excursion to be safely carried out. Are staff trained in delivering excursions like this outside of their normal working environment, and is this a risk or limitation that needs to be addressed in this instance? Are there legal requirements for staff/patient ratios for such an excursion and have you complied with them?

Things can change

Prepare for changes that could make the excursion less safe, like wet weather or extreme heat. If it isn’t safe, then make sure you reschedule the excursion for a better day, making it more enjoyable and safe for everyone.

Industry knowledge

Keep up to date with professional knowledge in your area of work. Are there any industry guidelines or best practise standards that you need to be aware of and apply to your work? Are you in contact with your professional membership or peak body that can provide you with this?

Insurance

There are risks in all public activities and it’s always a good idea to think through and seek advice (if needed) about the right sort of insurance cover for external excursions, like this one. Consider consulting with a lawyer about these potential risks to ensure you have covered all possibilities.

Follow any legal, regulatory, or professional standards requirements in the area you are working in, like aged care in this example. Seek the informed consent of the residents before the excursion and make them aware of any risks that they might face. Make sure you keep written records of all the steps taken to avoid and reduce these risks and the steps taken in the planning.


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This article is from the free online course:

Law for Non-Lawyers: Introduction to Law

Monash University