UPDATE 2: This story has been updated to include a statement from Northern Health
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include information provided by WorkSafeBC
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Northern Health received a $355, 249 fine from WorkSafeBC after repeatedly failing to properly complete workplace investigations related to safety at Peace Villa.
WorkSafeBC said that it investigated the care home after an incident of violence against a staff member and examined the health authority’s investigation reports for the incident and several other previous incidents.
“[The reports] all lacked key information such as underlying causes and corrective actions. The employer failed to ensure that a report of its full incident investigation was prepared in accordance with WorkSafeBC policies,” WorkSafeBC told Energeticcity.
The organization added that this was a repeated violation and issued the fine on November 10th, 2022.
In a statement, Northern Health said it has a “robust reporting process” to address hazards and near misses, adding that its injury rate is lower than the provincial health care average.
The health authority said that its measurable rates in Peace Villa are “trending positively” and this includes reduced violent interactions.
“The Peace Villa team continues to improve investigations, including information identified by WorkSafeBC as key for the report, such as job titles and phone numbers, with additional training and ongoing support from their Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee,” Northern Health said.
“We are committed to ensuring compliance with BC Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and will be assessing the penalty and continuing to provide [WorkSafeBC] additional information about the work we have completed between the issuing of the order and the penalty that was given.”
BCNU president Aman Grewal said in a release that she’s concerned this penalty indicates what she calls a systemic oversight by health employers and the government regarding the health and safety of health care workers and the increased rate of violence staff have been subjected to.
“While the recent announcement of new protection security officers is a step in the right direction, this shows us there is much more that needs to happen within health authorities to make worksites safer for nurses and all health care workers,” Grewal said.
While other areas of the province will receive protection security officers, none were hired in Northeast B.C.
“The fact is, all provincial health authorities use the same provincial reporting system, and we know there are issues with the system, as we’ve seen with this penalty.”
Northern Health said it hopes to re-visit proposals it had previously submitted to WorkSafe BC prior to and during the pandemic that will reportedly address the administrative challenges it faces from the current system.
“That proposal included plans to invest and improve the provincial incident investigation platform to support our staff in reporting efficiently and generating thorough investigation reports,” the health authority said.
The BCNU said this fine is not unique to Northern Health, adding that the Vancouver Island Health Authority was ordered to complete a compliance agreement with WorkSafeBC for insufficiently completed safety investigations and low rates of safety training.
“In 2019, the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital was issued the largest WorkSafe penalty ever at that time for failing to ensure the safety of five health care workers who were injured in two separate violent attacks at the Coquitlam hospital,” the union said.
The BCNU is now calling on the government to audit all occupational health and safety records from the last 12 months to ensure that investigations are conducted and that necessary corrective actions are implemented.
The union also previously supported the multiple calls for a complete operational audit of Northern Health.
Energeticcity.ca reached out to Northern Health for a statement which was not received by the time of publication.
Grewal spoke of other systemic issues in Northern Heath in Part One of our series Code Grey, we look to decipher the current state of the health care system in Northeast B.C.
Part Two of the series delves into the health care shortages that have long impacted rural communities in B.C.
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