Excerpt from the Ontario Government’s ‘Newsroom’

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), in Toronto, was fined $70,000 today for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) after workers were assaulted.

On November 14, 2007, in CAMH’s 1001 Queen St. W. Secure Observation and Treatment Unit, a patient woke in the middle of the night and began wandering. After unsuccessfully trying to persuade the patient to return to bed, a nurse radioed for help. The patient punched the nurse who arrived to help. The first nurse fled to the nursing station but was unable to lock the door. The patient entered the station and started punching a third nurse and the second nurse, who was now on the scene. Security staff arrived but could not access the unit because they did not have a key. One nurse was able to open the door from the inside while the patient was distracted. Security subdued the patient.

CAMH pleaded guilty and was fined $35,000, under the OHSA, for failing to ensure that security personnel had key access to the Secure Observation and Treatment Unit in the event of an emergency.
On September 17, 2008, in CAMH’s Assessment and Treatment Unit, 1001 Queen St. W., a nurse was temporarily watching a patient who was under constant supervision. The patient began molesting and forcing the nurse towards the washroom. The nurse screamed, but no one heard. At the washroom door, the nurse escaped when the patient was startled by another patient. There was a personal alarm system in place in the building, but it was not in use in that unit. Also, there were no written procedures in place for the use of personal alarms.

CAMH pleaded guilty and was fined $35,000, under the OHSA, for failing to provide written measures and procedures pertaining to the use of personal alarms.

The fines were imposed by Justice of the Peace Peter Gettlich. In addition to the fines, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge on the total, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

My opinion

The law(s) in contravention:

The centre for Addiction and Mental Health was convicted under section 25 of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), subsection 2(h) which states,

“An employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.”

Picture yourself working alone one dark night and the procedures are not in place to protect you. A person with a history of mental issues is under your care. Would you feel safe? Even a large, strong man has been thrown around, quite easily, by an unstable person and this type of concern should have been identified, assessed and suggested controls put in place. The JHSC should have also have recognized this as an occupational hazard and completed a report to management with suggestions for corrective action. If it WAS done, then my apologies. If not, shame on you!

The second law in contravention can be found in the Healthcare sector regulation 67/93, section 9(1) which states,

“The employer shall reduce the measures and procedures for the health and safety of workers established under section 8 to writing and such measures and procedures may deal with, but are not limited to, safe work practices.”

The healthcare sector is under stress at the best of times. Job cuts put less workers dealing with more patients. At the metal health centre the policies and procedures to deal with emergency situations was not deemed to be needed and that, in itself, is a major lack of insight on the management side of the business. Why is it so hard for a manager to understand his/her responsibility under the ACT. Hmmm…..

The third and final law in contravention also comes from section 25 of the OHSA, subsection 1(c) which states,

“An employer shall ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”

It is not only important to have everything in place to protect workers but the employer is under a special duty to ensure that those procedures, they were to already have in place, are carried out. In my opinion, section 27 was violated since the lack of supervision was evident in both cases.

I believe CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, got off lucky. If the injuries were worse than they ended up, I believe the fines would have reflected the difference and the apparent violations under section 27 would have been added.

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Violence and Harassment’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259. We can also be reached at info@hrsgroup.com

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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