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Maintain professional work standards

Maintain professional work standards


Identify relevant organisation policies and procedures relating to own work role
Negligence and assault
Contribute to identifying and implementing improved work practices
Comply with relevant accreditation standards applying to work undertaken
Reflect understanding and focus on achieving organisation goals and objectives in all work undertaken
Respond positively to changes to improve work practices and procedures in accordance with organisation requirements
Issues requiring mandatory notification are identified and reported to supervisor and/or an appropriate authority


Identify relevant organisation policies and procedures relating to own work role

In this topic you will learn about the regulations that affect the SSD, professional liability and other legal aspects such as statutes, Acts, regulations and guidelines.

It is very important to understand the government Acts, policies and guidelines that affect you as a sterilising technician so you can ensure correct practice in all situations.

State legislation

The main examples are listed (including websites to access them).

To find copies of these pieces of legislation go to: www.legislation.nsw.gov.au

Click on Browse A-Z in Force and select the title of the piece of legislation that you want to see. Notice the difference between Acts in Force and Regulations etc in Force

Commonwealth legislation

To find Commonwealth legislation go to: www.austlii.edu.au

From the left hand navigation select Commonwealth, then Commonwealth Consolidated Acts, Alphabetical List, Acts beginning with T. Scroll down to select the Trade Practices Act

Trade Practices Act 1974.

Government department policies and guidelines

Infection Control Policy: www.health.nsw.gov.au

Non-government bodies

Standards Australia: www.standards.com.au/

International Standards Organisation: www.isostandards.com.au

Trade Practices Act 1974 and the Fair Trading Act 1987

There are laws, at state and federal level, designed to protect consumers and give them access to remedies when they have been dealt with unfairly.

The most important consumer protection laws are the federal Trade Practices Act, and the NSW Fair Trading Act. Laws also cover dispute resolution between consumers and traders (sellers of goods and services).

Remedies available to consumers may include orders to refund money, to pay for loss or damage, or to replace faulty items. The NSW Act which outlines the procedures consumers will be required to follow if they wish to make a claim on the trader is called the Consumer Claims Act 1998. Under this Act, consumers may have their cases heard in front of a tribunal. The Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, established under the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Act 2001, for example, handles disputes about goods and services (including professional services) up to a limit of $25,000.

The health care facility's responsibilities arising from these Acts are quality of service and patient treatment. If a patient is unhappy or dissatisfied with the treatment provided by the facility, a complaint may be made to a tribunal, or court of justice which will decide if the facility has acted properly.

The following definitions are given in the Consumer Claims Act 1998:

consumer claim means:

(a)  a claim by a consumer for the payment of a specified sum of money, or

(b)  a claim by a consumer for the supply of specified services, or

(c)  a claim by a consumer for relief from payment of a specified sum of money, or

(d)  a claim by a consumer for the delivery, return or replacement of specified goods or goods of a specified description, or

(e)  a claim by a consumer for a combination of two or more of the remedies referred to in paragraphs (a)–(d), that arises from a supply of goods or services by a supplier to the consumer, whether under a contract or not, or that arises under a contract that is collateral to a contract for the supply of goods or services. (downloaded 114/08/2007 from http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/maintop/scanact/inforce/NONE/0)

‘Services’ means (from the facility viewpoint) the performance of work (including work of a professional nature) whether with or without the supply of goods. Services also include the provision of credit.

supplier means a person who, in the course of carrying on, or purporting to carry on, a business, supplies goods or services.


(a)  in relation to goods, includes supply goods by way of a contract for the sale, exchange, lease, hire or hire-purchase of goods or an alleged contract for the sale, exchange, lease, hire or hire-purchase of goods, and

(b)  in relation to services, includes provide, grant or render services for valuable consideration under a contract or for valuable consideration claimed to have been agreed to under an alleged contract.

trade or commerce includes any business or professional activity.

Tribunal means the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal established by the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal Act 2001. (downloaded 114/08/2007 from http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/maintop/scanact/inforce/NONE/0)

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Negligence and assault


Negligence, or malpractice, is a part of the law that serves to allow people who have been injured by the actions of others to be compensated for that injury.

Negligence may be defined as the omission to do something which a reasonable person, guided by the principles that ordinary people live by, would do, or doing something that a prudent and responsible person would not do.

So, if a patient is injured by a health worker injured during a procedure and the patient can prove the claim, the worker's organisation (or the organisation's insurance company) will have to pay compensation for the injury. An example is when a Doctor uses a dirty speculum during an examination and the patient gets an infection as a result.

If any of these events do happen, the clinic’s liability can be reduced if steps are taken to minimise the damage or injury to the patient.

It is important to realise that a health care worker may be fined by WorkCover, or other legal avenues, if a claim of negligence made by a patient or other staff member, is proven to be correct.

However, we must stress the importance of preventing any accident.


Assault occurs when one person deliberately touches another person in a way that is unacceptable and/or without the consent of that person. This does not include normal everyday touching like bumping into someone on the street or touching someone on the arm.

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Contribute to identifying and implementing improved work practices

So now let’s look at some areas in which we can contribute to identifying and implementing improved work practices. These are suggestions only and each practice or organisation will have their own.

Areas for continuous improvement (and many overlap) include:

This is a limited list. Do the next activity to help your understanding and expand your knowledge in your own area.

Activity 1


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Comply with relevant accreditation standards applying to work undertaken

There are several accreditation standards that health workers should be aware of. Not all of those I have listed below will necessarily be relevant to you. However, look at their websites and then research your own workplace to see if you can add to this list.

NHMRC, National Health & Medical Research Council: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au

ACHS, The Australian Council of Healthcare Standards: www.achs.org.au

DECC, The Department of Environment and Climate Change http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/

CHUBB fire & security training: http://www.chubb.com.au/

WorkCover risk assessment: http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/

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Reflect understanding and focus on achieving organisation goals and objectives in all work undertaken

Do you work in an organisation that has a ‘Mission Statement’? If you are employed by a large clinic or hospital, or perhaps in a Government establishment you would most probably know what a Mission Statement is.

Let me explain. Every organisation has a reason for being. It is not there just because it is there. Banks are there to lend and look after people’s money. Schools are there to educate people. Doctors are there to make people well. Farmers farm to feed people. Get the idea?

Now think about why your organisation is there. Okay, I know, you’re saying the boss is there to make money! True. However, your boss can only make money by offering a service. Therefore this service has a purpose. What is the fundamental purpose of a clinic/hospital? Correct, to look after and make better, people’s health.

Now, some /clinics/hospitals make more money or offer better services than others. Why is this so? This is where a Mission Statement helps. It clearly defines the goals and purpose that the business is about. It helps employees such as yourself, understand and aim toward achieving those goals.

Let’s do an exercise. Think about the types of quality features or values which your clinic offers or should offer. Make a list.

For the sake of this exercise I’m going to say the following points for my list.

Now let’s look at those words and see if we can adapt them into a Mission Statement for our pretend health care facility.

‘Our aim at the ‘Good Health Hospital’ is to promote good health for our patients and deliver quality health services in a competent, kindly and timely manner.’

This statement tells the patient what the purpose is, what the clinic is doing about it and what it values. However, it also lets employees see what the organisation they work for values, and what they themselves should be aiming for to support their organisation.

Activity 2


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Respond positively to changes to improve work practices and procedures in accordance with organisation requirements

We are all creatures of habit. What does that mean? Well in this context it means we are happy with the way we do tasks at work and we don’t want to try anything else even if it’s more innovative or efficient. It takes us outside our comfort zone.

However, change affects us all but often in different ways. Our reaction may be;

There are many feelings and emotions that go hand in hand with change. So, think about how you handle change at work. Does your reaction encompass any of the above feelings? Does it depend on what the change is?

Sometimes it’s difficult to accept ‘change’ if the feelings we get about it are negative. Fear, anxiety, frustration and anger, are all negative feelings to name but a few. Think about the impact these feelings have on our colleagues. How do you feel when one of your workmates is angry because a work routine has changed to make it safer and more efficient? It makes you feel miserable and perhaps even angry yourself.

Only through positive thinking and seeing the good points in something can you feel better about a change that would otherwise conjure up negative feelings.

Positive attitudes are just as infectious as negative attitudes but positive attitudes serve us far better than negative ones.

How can we put this into practice? Look at the following example.

In Hilary’s department, the manager had moved the photocopier in the corner into a separate room down the hall. Hilary was angry about this because it meant she had to traipse all the way to this other room several times a day, instead of taking just a couple of steps. She felt this wasted her time.

When her manager asked her why she was so angry she told him. He explained why he had moved the copier. It was not to annoy her. The copier was too close to Hilary's desk and he was worried about Hilary breathing in the fine particles from the toner cartridge.

Hilary then chose to accept that her manager was not being considerate. In fact, he cared about her health and safety.

Activity 3


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Issues requiring mandatory notification are identified and reported to supervisor and/or an appropriate authority

There are many issues within the SSD that require mandatory notification and reporting, most of which deal with OHS requirements that we have already discussed.

However there are other certain issues that require mandatory notification to authorities. These include:

As a health care worker you have a shared responsibility to report to your supervisor, employer or relevant Authority, any suspected cases of abuse or neglect against children or others at risk.

According to the, New South Wales Government, Department of Community Services,

‘Any person can make a report of harm or risk of harm to a child or young person, but some have a legal obligation to do so – these are known as mandatory reporters.’ NSW Interagency Guidelines for Child Protection Intervention 2006, Chapter 2, p, 1.

The word ‘mandatory’ in this context means it is the law and that as a mandatory reporter, you have no choice but to report. So who are ‘mandatory reporters?’

A ‘mandatory reporter’ is someone who delivers the following services wholly or partly to children as part of their paid professional work. The NSW Govt, Dept of Community Services, defines them as;

To know more about this you should visit the following website or the appropriate website for your state: http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/DOCS/STANDARD/PC_100966.htm

What are the possible signs of abuse and/or neglect in children or young people?

There are common physical and behavioural signs that may indicate abuse or neglect. The presence of one of these signs does not necessarily mean abuse or neglect. Other things need to be considered, such as the circumstances of the child or family.

For more information on the possible signs of abuse and/or neglect go to the Department of Community Services Protecting children at: http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/DOCS/STANDARD/PC_101001.htm

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