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Health authority failed to protect workers from violence

WorkSafe BC has provided more details on a $97,500 fine against the Vancouver Island Health Authority for failing to protect its workers following three violent incidents within eight months.

"These were high-risk violations and, in some cases, repeated violations, indicating a failure of the employer to ensure the health and safety of workers," says a WorkSafe newsletter released today.

While Victoria's CFAX radio reported on the fine in July, the newsletter explains the incidents included two assaults on staff members by a patient, first at a mental health facility, then later at a residential care facility. The transfer to the second facility happened even though patients with a history of recent violence were not supposed to be transferred there.

In the third incident a patient in the hospital's psychiatric unit "fired a pellet gun striking three workers." The patient had been allowed on several occasions to leave the hospital grounds, but was not searched for weapons each time he returned, the newsletter said.

"Both patients had a history of violence and presented a risk of violence to workers, but that information was not communicated to workers," WorkSafe found. "In addition, this employer failed to develop effective policies, procedures, and work arrangements to eliminate or minimize the risk of violence at the workplace, particularly in the areas of identifying patients for risk of violence, weapons searches, and the application of restraints.

"The level of training and instruction in violence prevention was also inadequate."

VIHA has had similar problems in the past. The Harbour City Star in Nanaimo reported on a $75,000 fine in 2010 and CBC radio referred in February to a $225,000 fine for not complying with WorkSafe orders on violent incidents in Nanaimo and Tofino.

The WorkSafe newsletter includes 69 penalties, including six related to the deaths of workers.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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