Unsafe workplace trial a "wake-up call" to all employers

Ontario's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is charged with operating an unsafe workplace for an incident in 2014 that left two nurses severely hurt.

Toronto (7 May 2015) — As Ontario's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) faces charges for operating an unsafe workplace, OPSEU/NUPGE President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the world-renowned institution must redouble its efforts to guarantee a safe work environment for patients and staff alike.

“The start of the trial marks a significant day for CAMH,” said Thomas, whose union represents more than 1,800 staff members at the downtown Toronto centre. “Nobody takes pleasure in what will unfold in court. But the trial is a wake-up call to all health care facilities that violence in the workplace must never be tolerated and that severe penalties await those which willfully disregard health and safety regulations.”

Two nurses severely injured

CAMH has been charged with four counts under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) for operating an unsafe workplace. The charges stem from a January 2014 incident in which a patient violently attacked a registered practical nurse and, moments later, a registered nurse who came to her colleague’s assistance. The attack left each nurse with severe injuries that required months of recuperation.

CAMH faces a maximum $2 million fine if convicted on all counts.

Without prejudging the outcome of the trial, Thomas noted that the Ministry of Labour, which is responsible for enforcing the OHSA, typically conducts a thorough review of events and circumstances leading up to an incident before determining whether to lay charges.

For too long, incidents went unreported

“Obviously, the Ministry felt there were serious grounds to lay charges and we are pleased they did,” he said. “For too long incidents of the sort CAMH is now facing went unreported or underreported which left patients and workers at high risk of violence. By my reckoning that is the definition of an unsafe workplace.”

Citing figures from 2013-2014, Nancy Pridham, President of OPSEU Local 500 at CAMH, said CAMH reported 514 workplace violence incidents, 453 of which involved physical assaults or abusea 29 percent increase over incidents the previous year.

Communication, training, and transparency

“For our members the issue comes down to an organization taking responsibility for keeping its employees and clients safe,” said Pridham. “That means having good communications in place, proper training from top-to-bottom, a transparent accounting of violence, and a plan in place to stop health care professionals from being injured or harmed when they’re on the job.

“Unless CAMH is ordered to improve its record of violence in the workplace I’m afraid we could see more charges in the months and years to come.”


The 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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