Union appeal prompts security improvements

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A mental health centre which is currently facing criminal charges for failing to ensure a safe workplace has been ordered to bolster security measures and improve staff training by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre must install a new electronic alarm system at its Brockville site as well as provide improved employee training and hire properly trained security personnel who will be present 24/7.

The order comes after the Ontario Nurses Association appealed a previous decision by the Ministry of Labour not to issue specific orders to improve the safety and security of employees at the site.

In addition to the safety measures, the hospital has been ordered to collaborate with the ONA, other industry unions, and the Joint Health & Safety Committee to develop a flagging policy which will work to identify patients with a risk of workplace violence.

The procedural system should help employees recognize their behaviours and triggers and well as identify any control measures that could protect workers.

Brockville Mental Health Centre was charged with five infractions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to protect its workers stemming from an incident in 2014 in which a registered nurse was stabbed multiple times in the head and neck by a patient.

Other union bosses have already spoken up to publicly commend the ruling and Warren Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, is pushing for the order to be applied province-wide.

“For the first time in Ontario history, a quasi-judicial body has confirmed that security personnel have a role to play on a health care team,” he said. “This is an extremely significant conclusion, not just for Brockville Mental Health Centre, but for mental health care facilities across the province.”

Kevin Hudson, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Local 439, agreed – “This is a big win, and not just for Brockville Mental Health,” he stressed.

“We battled the employer for almost 18 months to get this basic protection,” he added. “Staff in other facilities shouldn’t have to go through what we did – just so they don’t need to worry about getting stabbed at work.”

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