Laws need to be enforced to protect nurses

There have been 400 incidents of violence against workers at CAMH this year. It is time for the CEO, directors, and managers of a hospital be held accountable for workers' safety.

Toronto (17 Dec. 2014) — In a press release the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) are urging the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Toronto police, and Crown attorneys to lay charges against the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for a violent attack that left a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) beaten beyond recognition.

Both the RPN who was brutally assaulted, a member of OPSEU, and the Registered Nurse (RN) who came to her aid, an ONA member, are still off work.

Violence in workplace unacceptable

The attack took place on January 12, 2014 and the deadline for charges to be filed is one year from the date of the incident—January 12, 2015—leaving only one more month for the Ministry, police, and prosecutors to act.

“It is unacceptable for a nurse to go to work healthy and not come home because she’s in the ER,” said Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, President of ONA. “If a worker at a construction site or on an assembly line was beaten in this manner, there’s no doubt this would be treated differently. Employees in male-dominated workplaces do not put up with violence and neither will our predominantly female profession.

“There have been 400 incidents of violence against workers at CAMH this year alone, most of them happening after this horrible and preventable beating,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, RPN, President of OPSEU. “It’s time for the CEO, directors, and managers of a hospital to be held accountable for showing disregard for the health and safety of their employees. It seems that it will take being charged to make our bosses understand they must not ignore hundreds of acts of workplace violence per year.”

Employer shows disregard for safety in their response to attack

In this case, the employer cleaned up the blood at the scene of the attack before investigators were on site and, contravening Section 51 (1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the Ministry, the joint health and safety committee, and the unions were not immediately notified that a critical injury had occurred. Nurses and other health care workers at CAMH are calling for the Ministry to enforce the law by charging the hospital and the CEO, directors, and managers for failing to comply with the OHSA. ONA and OPSEU are also urging the police and Crown attorneys to lay criminal charges against the CEO and any directors and/or managers who did not take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm.

The Westray provisions of the Criminal Code, enacted in 2004, established new legal duties for workplace health and safety, and imposed serious penalties for violations that result in injuries or death. These amendments provided new rules for attributing criminal liability to organizations, including corporations, their representatives, and those who direct the work of others.

More information:

OPSEU looking into prevalence of 'client aggression'

Health-care workers face the hazard of violence

Violence Escalating at CAMH: Registered Nurses & Health Care Workers Call for Action Now

OPSEU urges CAMH to take action on workplace violence


National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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