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We are now starting to see the first decisions being released that deal with violations of the (fairly) new violence provisions added to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”). For details on those changes, you can revisit Mary Lou Brady’s blog at https://www.siskinds.com/don-t-forget-to-review-your-workplace-violence-and-harassment-policies-and-programs/.

Two convictions and heavy financial fines have been levied against two employers in Ontario this summer.

In July, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)  plead guilty and was fined $80,000 for “failing to develop, establish and put into effect measures and procedures including safe work practices” to protect a vulnerable sector of their work force. During the night shift on January 14, 2014, a registered practical nurse was performing rounds when the nurse was attacked from behind by a patient who had a history of violence. The patient had not been following the prescribed medication plan. The first assault occurred in the hallway of a unit and a second assault occurred close to the nursing station. A co-worker of the assaulted nurse tried to intervene and also suffered injuries. Certainly, the dynamics involved with a night shift, a patient with a violent history and where a medication plan was not being followed, require a more careful risk of violence assessment and appropriate measures implemented to do all that is possible to protect workers.

In August, Kinark Child and Family Services, an organization in Halton Region which provides children’s mental health services and support for children and youth also plead guilty and was fined $125,000 for “failing to provide information, instruction and supervision” to protect a worker from workplace violence or the risk of violence from a resident in the organization’s care. A youth worker had recently started a contract at the employer’s Youth Centre facility in Oakville, in its detention and custody unit for boys. The worker was directing a male youth to return to his room for the night when he was attacked by the youth, who entered the staff office, repeatedly striking the worker. A co-worker intervened and was also injured.

These first convictions and fines under the violence provisions of the OHSA highlight the importance of not just having the appropriate written policies in place, but also actively and continually assessing the new risks of violence that develop in the workplace on a daily basis and putting plans in place to avoid the violence materializing. This is especially the case where employees are placed in vulnerable environments such as the night shift and working with unpredictable and sometimes violent individuals.

Do you need assistance reviewing or better implementing your OHSA policies? Contact a member of the Siskinds’ Labour & Employment group today.

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