Some workplaces are inherently dangerous. Often we think of these dangers arising from physical or environmental agents that could cause harm to the worker on a day-to-day basis. The human element is also a very real source for contributing to a dangerous workplace, especially in organizations that serve vulnerable and disenfranchised members of our society.
Ontario’s Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care is a facility that treats patients with severe and complex mental health issues and disorders. In the spring of 2016, a patient at the center was able to access two screwdrivers and stabbed several workers, causing them serious injury.
Almost a year later, the Ministry of Labour has laid three charges against the Centre under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. These charges include the employer’s failure to take every reasonable precaution to protect workers; failure to ensure that measures and protections were established for workers; and failure to have health and safety procedures in writing.
As noted in the article, if the employer is found guilty of, or pleads guilty to, these charges they may be faced with a fine of up to $500,000 and other potential penalties.
The Waypoint Centre has responded, as noted in the article and as posted on their website.
This case shows us that policies and procedures on their own do not make workplaces safe. It is clear that the employer must engage risks proactively, especially in a high-risk workplace where danger lies in human behaviour that may be volatile and unpredictable. The employer must act in order to ensure that all persons, both employees and patients alike, are able to have some assurance of living and working in a safe environment.
- As the Health and Safety Manager in this situation, what steps would you take to ensure that workers feel safe?
- How could you promote a safe workplace in an inherently dangerous work environment?
- If you were the employer in this case, how would you plead and what would be the result?