Disability services: Safety basics

Understand and manage the health and safety risks in disability services work.


What are disability services?

Disability services include residential support, supported living, community-based activities, day programs and supported employment. Workers support people with disability (clients) to be more independent at home and in the community.

Common hazards and risks in disability services

  • lifting, supporting and transferring clients
  • using equipment like wheelchairs and lifting hoists
  • work-related stress
  • occupational violence
  • slips, trips and falls
  • bullying and harassment

Lifting, supporting and moving

In disability services, injuries can often come from lifting and moving people or heavy objects, or a lot of bending, twisting or reaching. Examples of this kind of work include helping a client shower and repetitive tasks like laundry work. Tasks like these may involve hazardous manual handling, which can lead to musculoskeletal disorders like sprains and strains to the back and shoulders.

Health and safety in disability work

Our tools and guides can be used to assess and control the specific risks in your workplace.


Involving your employees in health and safety issues can result in a safer workplace. That's why consultation is an important part of risk management. In certain situations employers must consult about health and safety issues with employees and health and safety representatives (HSRs) if they have them.

  1. Find the hazards in your workplace.
  2. Assess the risks associated with those hazards. You don’t have to do a formal risk assessment if there is already information about the risk and how to control it.
  3. Control the risks.
  4. Monitor and review your risk controls. Revise the controls if they are not working.

Think about all workplaces

Managing risk applies to anywhere employees are working. It may be in a residential service, a client’s home, or in vehicles or public places for support activities.

Health and safety legal duties

Under Victorian occupational health and safety law, there are specific duties to ensure health and safety in workplaces.


Examples of employer duties:

  • for your employees, you must provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and free of risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable
    • employees may include contractors and agency staff
  • give your employees the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
  • ensure that the conduct of your business does not endanger other people (including clients, volunteers and visitors)
  • report notifiable incidents to WorkSafe

Who’s an employer?

If you have one or more employees, you are an employer. An employer can be a:

  • person
  • company
  • partnership, unincorporated association, franchising operation, or not-for-profit organisation


Examples of employee duties:

  • take reasonable care for your health and safety in the workplace
    • you must also take reasonable care for the health and safety of others who may be affected by what you do or don't do
  • cooperate with your employer about any action they take to comply with the OHS Act or Regulations
    • for example, use equipment properly, follow safe work policies and procedures and attend training
  • don't intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything at the workplace to support health, safety and welfare