OHS Canada Magazine

Southlake hospital fined $80,000 for 2019 incident of workplace violence

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October 16, 2020
By OHS Canada

Compliance & Enforcement Health & Safety Conviction Mental Health Southlake workplace violence

Two workers were seriously injured by patient

Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont., was fined $80,000 on Oct. 16, as a result of a 2019 incident that saw two workers injured by a patient.

According to a court bulletin, the incident took place on Jan. 17, 2019, in an enclosed unit known as the Mental Health and Wellness Area Unit (MHWA) of Southlake’s emergency department.

A patient was brought to Southlake that morning by a York Regional police officer was admitted to the MHWA and flagged as being a moderate violence risk. The violence escalated.

A worker was attempting to deliver food to a different patient and entered the unit accompanied by another worker. The food was delivered and the two workers approached the door to the nursing station to exit the common area.

The patient admitted that morning struck one of the workers and then struck the other worker. The blows were sufficient to result in serious injuries to both workers.


Improper risk assessment

The investigation by Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills DevelopmentĀ  inspectors found that while Southlake did implement some policies dealing with workplace violence in the MHWA, several hazards remained for which the employer had failed to conduct a proper risk assessment to determine what reasonable precautions were needed to the protect the safety of the workers.

Among the deficiencies:

  • There was no effective means of communication between workers in the nursing station and persons in the common area.
  • There was no procedure in place requiring the admitting staff to ask more extensive questions regarding a patient’s history of violence.
  • There were no procedures in place to address generally the hazard of an escalating patient being present in the common area, and nothing specifically addressing how to safely enter or exit the common area in these circumstances.

Pursuant to section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Southlake had a legal duty as an employer to take every reasonable precaution in the circumstance s for the protection of its workers. This includes protection against workplace violence.

That day, the hospital failed to take the reasonable precaution of establishing effective means of communication between workers in the nursing station and persons in the common area of the MHWA, contrary to section 25(2)(h) of the act.

Southlake also failed to take the reasonable precaution of developing and/or establishing a procedure for the safe entry to and/or egress from the common area of the MHWA when a person is presenting with escalating behaviour, also contrary to the act.


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