TORONTO – The President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is outraged at amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, buried in omnibus budget legislation, that will weaken measures meant to protect health-care workers from violence.
The amendments in Bill 70 give the chief prevention officer expanded powers to accredit and set standards for health and safety management systems and an accreditation program. ONA understands that the minister’s office has signaled that employers who meet the standards would be ‘spared the burden’ of routine Ministry of Labour inspections. Inspectors would continue to investigate complaints and incidents.
“Health care has some of the worst accident and injury rates of all sectors,” says ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. “These amendments propose that employers that meet accreditation standards can then self-regulate, and will not be subject to proactive inspections. This is akin to saying that traffic cops will stop patrols and only investigate a crash.
Haslam-Stroud notes that, “ONA’s experience with accreditation in hospitals has not been positive. In hospital accreditation this summer, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health was given ‘exemplary standing,’ with "prioritizing staff and client safety" their third area of excellence. Yet CAMH has been convicted three times of offences related to violent attacks on workers and critical issues, and the Ministry of Labour is still investigating violence issues, including at least two more critical injuries from attacks.”
Haslam-Stroud is an appointee to the ministries of health and labour’s violence leadership roundtable, with a mandate to reduce the rates of workplace violence against nurses.
ONA is the union representing 62,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals, as well as almost 16,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.