Excerpt from the Government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital Corporation, Burlington, was fined $10,000 on December 8, 2009, for a violation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) after workers became ill.

On April 30, 2008, Joseph Brant Memorial was informed that a patient who had just been admitted to the hospital had been in contact with scabies, a highly contagious skin rash caused by microscopic mites. The next day, the hospital’s infection control manager implemented a scabies surveillance protocol at the hospital. Hospital workers reported skin rashes from late May to late July 2008. During July, two workers were diagnosed with scabies and lost time from work.

On July 22, 2008, the Ministry of Labour learned about the scabies outbreak from local media and investigated.

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital Corporation pleaded guilty under the OHSA of failing, as an employer, to notify the Ministry of Labour within four days of being advised by, or on behalf of, a worker that the worker had an occupational illness.

The fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Lina Mills. In addition to the fine, the court also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge, 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:

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital Corporation was found guilty of violating section 52 (2) of the OHSA which states,

“Notice of occupational illness — If an employer is advised by or on behalf of a worker that the worker has an occupational illness or that a claim in respect of an occupational illness has been filed with the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) by or on behalf of the worker, the employer shall give notice in writing, within four days of being so advised, to a Director, to the committee or a health and safety representative ad to the trade union, if any, containing such information and particulars as are prescribed.”

As an instructor of Basic Certification Level 1, it is my job to instruct both worker representatives AND management representatives on their responsibilities under the ACT. One of the many responsibilities for employers is the reporting of critical injuries, accidents and occupational illnesses to the proper authorities, unions and other possible internal/external sources and report them in the proper time frame.

Where was the management representative here? Why did he/she not liaison between management and the accident/incident? Section 25 of the OHSA requires the employer to do everything reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker. If the hospital reported the incident properly, there may have been ways for the workers to receive less exposure, or less people to be exposed to scabies. There was no excuse for their lack of action taken!

The Ministry of Labour can only do what it can and only if they are provided with the information. The JHSC (joint health and safety committee) needs to be reminded of their responsibilities and direct their employer to follow the guidelines in the ACT. It would have definitely saved the hospital the fine and, in some small way, a tarnished reputation.

I still blame the JHSC for the lack of direction in this case. Active ‘Certified’ members should have taken care of business. If they were trained by HRS Group Inc., they would have.

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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