Workplace safety is set to get a boost as changes to Manitoba's occupational health and safety provisions will soon make it mandatory for employers to implement violence-prevention policies, according to a report from Canada OH&S News.
Employers in specific sectors will be required to monitor, track, and report annually on violent incidents in the workplace. They will have to put in place procedures enabling employees to get immediate help when a violent or threatening situation occurs. Employers can also release personal information when deemed necessary to protect employees from the risk of violence, according to Joe Czech, a spokesman for Manitoba Labour and Immigration in Winnipeg.(WCxKit)
The changes cover the following sectors: health care, security, policing, corrections, crisis counseling and intervention, financial, pharmaceutical, education, and public transit and taxicab services. Workplaces that are not included in the elevated risk category will still be required to assess the risk of violence. "If a risk is identified, the employer must put in place measures to protect their workers," Czech said.
The new rules are based on recommendations from the Minister's Advisory Council on Workplace Safety and Health, and consultations with a number of stakeholders, including representatives from the health care sector.
Sandi Mowat, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) in Winnipeg – which partnered with the provincial labor department to address the issue of workplace violence in health care facilities – said she is "very pleased with the changes." Findings from MNU focus groups investigating the extent of workplace violence incidents in the sector indicates many of these incidents are underreported, Mowat said.
In her blog entry for Working Families Manitoba, a community campaign launched by the Manitoba Federation of Labor to raise awareness of issues of concern to workers and their families, Mowat cites research that health care providers are victims of violence at an increasing rate. National studies also show that 48 percent of all non-fatal injuries from occupational assaults and violent acts occur in health care and social service settings.
"This fact is extremely alarming to us, since nurses were identified as the most likely of all health care workers to be assaulted," she writes.
With the regulatory amendments, it becomes clear that health care providers can flag a patient’s file who has exhibited violent behavior in the past. This measure, which also applies to mental health patients, will make information more readily available to the caregivers concerned, Mowat said.
"Health care workers, and in particular nurses, have a right to know if this individual has put a health care provider at risk in the past," she said. While existing regulations have provisions enabling health care providers to flag patients with violent tendencies, "most employers didn't do it because they believe that it was a breach of confidentiality," Mowat said.
A system to annually review and report violent incidents, which will include results of investigations and the measures taken, will help ensure that such occurrences cannot be ignored. "Literature does say that in places where the incidents were tracked, there was a decrease in those incidents," Mowat said.(WCxKit)
In addition, changes to the provincial employment standards regulation will require police services to provide adequate transportation home, within the boundaries of a city or town, to members who have to work after midnight and before 6 a.m. The move, notes Czech, is aimed at reducing the risk to law enforcement members from potentially violent situations while commuting to or from work during late-night shifts.
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