In response to the public outcry following the deaths of numerous long-term care (“LTC”) facility residents in Ontario, a Public Inquiry was launched into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care Homes (the “Inquiry”). In July 2019, the Commissioner released an extensive report detailing recommendations aimed at systemically improving the industry in order to protect the safety of the residents of these facilities.

Shortly after the Inquiry was published, the Ministry of Labour released a guide addressing the prevention of workplace violence in the health care sector (“Guide”). This Guide provides a step by step approach to develop a workplace violence policy, but focuses on the prevention of workplace violence more broadly against employees in hospitals, LTC homes and private home care facilities. It is meant to act as a guide for employers, supervisors and workers to understand their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) and O. Reg. 67/93 – Health Care and Residential Facilities in order to address and prevent workplace violence in the health care sector.

The Guide focuses on the following elements:

  • The definition of workplace violence and workplace harassment under the OHSA;
  • Health Quality Ontario’s framework to improve worker safety and patient care;
  • The role of the Joint Health and Safety Committee or Health and Safety Representative;
  • Workplace policy requirements under the Health Care and Residential Facilities regulation of the OHSA;
  • The completion of risk assessments;
  • Communicating risks to workers; and
  • Reporting obligations under OHSA and the provincial quality improvement plans.

When viewed together, the Inquiry and Guide help employers in the health care sector to better understand potential systematic weaknesses in their processes and how to address them through the implementation of workplace procedures and policies that meet their obligations under the OHSA and its regulations. Health care employers should use the Guide as a tool to ensure they have a robust health and safety program which addresses specific risk factors facing their employees. Carefully assessing and communicating risks to workers will assist in reducing the number of lost-time injuries sustained in the health care sector due to workplace violence. Contact your Miller Thomson lawyer to obtain further information regarding your legal obligations and best practices.