Ontario Health Care System Lags Far Behind in Occupational Health & Safety:
RNs make 58 recommendations for improvement

TORONTO, June 28 /CNW/ - Representatives from the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) are at the Centre for Health and Safety in Mississauga today to provide 58 recommendations to the Expert Advisory Panel to Review Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety System.

ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN says Ontario health care facilities lag decades behind the rest of the workforce and fail to meet even the minimum health and safety standards.

"Despite very high stakes and the implications for RNs and health care providers, we are far behind industrial health and safety leaders, as we saw clearly during the SARS outbreak," she said. "Other industries have embraced occupational health and safety as a core value, but ironically, health care providers face far more dangerous working conditions with much less protection."

ONA's review of the state of occupational health and safety (OH&S) found serious deficits in protecting health care workers from illness and injury - and the risk extends to patient safety as well. ONA is calling for the provincial government to implement the 58 recommendations, particularly because of the potential benefits to RNs, patients and the public of making OH&S a core value.

ONA's submission to the Expert Panel focused on four main areas, and recommendations include:

    -   The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care - at the highest levels -
        must publicly commit to occupational health and safety laws and
        principles, and ensure top-down education and personal accountability
        throughout the government and the health care sector;
    -   Remove prevention from the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB).
        There must be a broadening of enforcement, and preventive and
        reactive enforcement in the Ministry of Labour. Inspectors must be
        empowered to more easily enforce accountability from the top down.
    -   Legislative amendments are required to expand the powers of health
        care Joint Health and Safety Committees and address reprisals that
        are now occurring.
    -   Training standards must be established and enforced for all.

In addition, ONA is urging that a more accurate picture of OH&S be developed - the Ministry of Labour should develop its own database of injuries and "near misses" based on reporting requirements in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Currently, the WSIB keeps statistics which ONA believes are grossly inaccurate.

Most importantly, ONA recommends that occupational health and safety criteria/requirements should be built into accountability agreements, physician privileges agreements and performance standards/measures for health-care employers, officers, directors and managers and that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care should not grant emergency funding for defence of occupational health and safety law violators.

The full submission to the Expert Panel is available on ONA's website at http://bit.ly/dhin0p.

ONA is the union representing 55,000 front-line registered nurses and allied health professionals and more than 12,000 nursing student affiliates providing care in Ontario hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community and industry.

SOURCE Ontario Nurses' Association

For further information: For further information: Ontario Nurses' Association, Sheree Bond, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2430, Cellular: (416) 986-8240; Melanie Levenson, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2369

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