Oct 27 2011

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Union raises concerns over violence compliance plan

from Canadian OH&S News

The union representing workers at a psychiatric hospital in British Columbia is raising concerns over an action plan submitted to WorkSafeBC in connection with a violent workplace assault in July.

On October 12, the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) requested a meeting with the employer at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital (FPH) in Port Coquitlam to discuss the union’s dissatisfaction with the action plan submitted to WorkSafeBC last month, says BCGEU spokeswoman Karen Tankard. A meeting date has not yet been chosen, she adds.

Calling the compliance attempts “inaccurate,” Tankard says the union is particularly concerned around the areas of training and education, plans and procedures, and involvement of workers and the joint health and safety committee. “We believe the employer isn’t taking the issue of violence in the workplace seriously,” she says.

The written action plan was one of six orders issued to the FPH following a WorkSafeBC investigation into a violent assault on July 26 in which a health care worker was assaulted by a patient who had manufactured a weapon from the metal frames of his eyeglasses. He used the weapon to stab the worker multiple times in the face and arms.

“The patient also punched the worker in the face, fracturing his jaw and loosening multiple teeth,” says a WorkSafeBC inspection report. “Given the severe nature of the assault, the lacerations/puncture wounds to the face and neck region which the worker sustained, and the need to transport the worker to hospital via ambulance, this incident should have been immediately reported to the board.”

The employee has not yet returned to work, Tankard adds.

During the course of the investigation, the officers found out that the patient in question had a known history of violent behaviour and had injured two other workers (and numerous other patients) since October of 2010.

In fact, at the time of the report, there had been at least three other patients who had injured multiple staff over a two-month period, and incident summary reports from the employer indicate seven workers were assaulted between June 2010 and May 2011, requiring medical treatment.

More effort needed in investigation, report says

“Little attempt has been made to determining the specific circumstances or causative factors which contributed to the incidents,” the report says.

Following their investigation, WorkSafeBC ordered the hospital to:

  • ensure that managers and/or security is aware of the requirement to immediately inform WorkSafeBC of incidents which result in serious worker injury;
  • send all copies of investigation reports and corrective action follow-up reports;
  • further investigate the July 26 incident and, specifically, identify causes and contributing factors;
  • instruct workers who may be exposed to the risk of violence in procedures, policies and work environment arrangements which have been developed to minimize or effectively control the risk to workers from violence;
  • if elimination of the hazard is not possible, establish procedures, policies and work environment arrangements to minimize the risk to workers; and,
  • provide a written action detailing proposals and timelines for implementation.

WorkSafeBC will conduct a follow-up inspection in November to evaluate what actions the employer has taken to minimize the risk of violence to workers.

Tankard says that “violence has been an escalating problem” and there have been more incidents at the hospital since July.

“Violence is not part of our members’ jobs at FPH,” says a BCGEU statement. “They have [the] right to go to work without fear of being punched, stabbed, kicked or spit on.”

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