Police association calls for full workers’ compensation for officers

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association (RNCA), which represents police officers in the province, is calling for changes to workplace health and safety legislation to allow full compensation for injured officers.

Currently, officers receive 80 per cent of their pre-injury net earnings, to a maximum gross of $61,615 as of Jan. 1, according to Vanessa Colman-Sadd, director of communications with Service NL, but the RNCA wants that increased to 100 per cent.

Colman-Sadd said that the department had recently gone through a statutory review process for Newfoundland and Labrador’s compensation system, during which the RNCA had made their request for full coverage for officers injured in the course of their duties. However, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission’s Statutory Review Committee did not make that recommendation to government in its final report, Colman-Sadd said.

“There is no province in Canada [that] provides a wage-loss benefit of 100 per cent of pre-injury net earning exclusively to police officers,” she noted. “There are six provinces [that] allow employers to top up, though, for all injured workers,” she added, stressing that RCMP officers are covered federally and that the compensation issue applies only to Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers.

Colman-Sadd noted that changing legislation to allow for full compensation or top-ups “would result in significant costs to employers and the workers’ compensation system, whether that’s for RNC or all injured workers. As well, any changes made to the workers’ compensation system must take a balanced approach, considering the needs of workers and employers.”

Doug Cadigan, president of the St. John’s Fire Fighters Association, said that the association “fully supports” the RNCA’s position. He said that he believes that emergency responders who are injured in the course of their duties while responding to or at an emergency should receive 100 per cent of their salary while recovering. “We think emergency responders are unique in that unlike all other workers in the province, once we begin responding to an emergency, we no longer have control of our workplace.”

Cadigan noted that while it is the responsibility of employers to ensure workers have a safe environment, it has been proven in the past that “this cannot be accomplished” at a fire or other emergency.

Nurse assaulted at Toronto’s CAMH in wake of oh&s charges

Less than a week after Ontario’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) filed charges against the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, regarding a violent incident last January, the facility experienced yet another patient assault against one of its employees.

On Dec. 23, the MOL filed four counts against CAMH under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), relating to an assault that occurred on Jan. 12 of last year. CAMH is facing charges, as an employer, of failing to:

  • provide proper information, instruction and supervision to ensure the safety of a worker;
  • take every reasonable precaution to protect an employee from violence;
  • establish and implement sufficient measures and procedures to protect workers from the risk of violence; and
  • establish safety measures and procedures in writing.

“A nurse was attacked by a patient while carrying out observation rounds,” said MOL media representative William Lin, describing the incident that led to the charges. “The first court appearance is to be heard on February 5th.”

Another nurse was critically injured at the facility on Dec. 29, when a patient pushed her down to the floor and punched her in the head repeatedly. “The worker was transported to St. Michael’s Hospital, and a police report was filed by the employer,” explained Lin. “We assigned an inspector who immediately contacted the workplace.”

According to Lin, the MOL didn’t receive notification of the Dec. 29 incident until the afternoon of the following day. Section 51(1) of OHSA requires employers to report critical injuries to the ministry “immediately.”

Rani Srivastava, CAMH’s chief of nursing and professional practice, confirmed that the MOL had visited the worksite on Dec. 31. “We had a really good meeting with them, and at this point, we’re just continuing to work with them very closely,” she said.

Srivastava could not provide further information on the Dec. 29 incident, due to the ongoing investigation. But she expressed disappointment that the MOL had charged them for the previous attack.

“Everyone at CAMH was very shaken by that particular incident,” she said. “I feel for the nurse that was attacked, who was hurt, as well as her colleagues who were also harmed, whether they were directly involved in the incident or they were witnesses. We know that physical violence can happen.”

Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), noted that there had been 453 incidents of physical assault or abuse at CAMH over the 2013-14 fiscal year alone. “Violence is not part of our jobs, and it shouldn’t be accepted as part of our jobs,” she said. “If we’re going to reduce the incidences of violence, it can’t be kind of an after-the-fact type of resolution. We need to be putting measures and procedures, obviously, in place on a proactive basis.”

Ontario has seen an escalation of violence in healthcare facilities, she added, citing similar attacks and assaults at the Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket (COHSN, Dec. 15) and a nurse stabbing at the Brockville Mental Health Centre.

“Part of ONA’s strategy for the upcoming year is a renewed violence strategy that will be encompassing everything,” explained Haslam-Stroud, “right from the communication of the issues to the public, to working with the government, to trying to ensure that our joint health and safety committees are fulfilling their obligations.”

CAMH has also been taking steps to counter workplace violence, according to Srivastava. Last year, the facility formed a committee consisting of its own team members and reps of unions, clinical operations and human resources, aiming to create a safer work environment at CAMH. “They’re coming together to discuss ideas, explore solutions and see what strategies or what ideas can come from that,” she said. “They’re looking at their own ideas; they’re looking at what other organizations are doing.”

The facility also plans to revise its debriefing processes, improve training and education for staff on preventing and handling aggressive patient behaviour and provide emotional support for traumatized employees, Srivastava added. “Patient safety and staff safety are really important things to us, and they go hand in hand.

“That includes caring for our staff, and the only way,” she said, “is if we’re able to work together and have that dialogue about, ‘How do we make sure we’re providing the best possible care, in an environment that supports our staff in the best possible way?’”

N.S. offshore oil and gas workers covered under one set of oh&s rules

Offshore oil and gas workers in Nova Scotia are now covered under one set of occupational health and safety rules.

Amendments to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act came into effect on Dec. 31. Among other changes, the amendments: add a new oh&s section to the act; clarify the roles and responsibilities of governments, regulators, employers and employees; and assign authority for oh&s officers to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. Mirror amendments were adopted federally in the Offshore Health and Safety Act and in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Nova Scotia’s offshore is one of the fastest-growing sectors in Atlantic Canada and represents huge potential for our province,” said Nova Scotia Energy Minister Andrew Younger in a joint press release from the provincial Department of Energy and Department of Labour and Advanced Education. “These changes complement the work already underway to promote workplace safety in every industry across Nova Scotia, to ensure all workers, whether on land or sea, return home safely at the end of each day.”

The press release added that the amendments apply to all offshore petroleum activities in the province. They also “support an occupational health and safety culture that recognizes shared responsibilities in the workplace”; provide joint management of oh&s by federal and provincial governments; ensure that oh&s applies to workers in transit to, from or between offshore platforms; and add new provincial oversight to the Department of Labour and Advanced Education for offshore oh&s.

Tony Cornect, Minister of Service NL, said that the amendments were tailored to the offshore working environment and incorporated fundamental oh&s principles, including a worker’s right to refusal, right to know and reprisal protection for raising health and safety concerns.

Canada’s offshore petroleum production accounts for 25 per cent of light crude output, or six per cent of Canada’s annual total crude output, according to Natural Resources Canada.





Engagement, leadership identified as significant challenges in 2015

Morneau Shepell, Canada’s largest administrator of retirement and benefits plans and the country’s largest provider of integrated absence management solutions, has identified employee engagement and leadership as the most significant challenges to workforce productivity in 2015.

Morneau Shepell’s 60-Second Survey for December was completed by 442 Canadian human resources professionals. It found that 43 per cent of respondents cited employee engagement as the major impediment to higher productivity and about one in five (22 per cent) named leadership as a significant challenge to productivity.

Nathan Gibson, manager of corporate communications with Morneau Shepell, told COHSN that the survey did not provide a specific definition of employee engagement or leadership, as those were left to the interpretation of the respondent. “The challenge that employers face is in knowing how to address these issues effectively in order to increase productivity,” added Stephen Lintrap, executive vice-president with Morneau Shepell, in a press release on Jan. 5.

According to Gibson, the survey also found that mental health was rated “significantly more often than physical health as a challenge to workplace productivity and as a priority for 2015.” In addition, the best indicator of an organization’s 2015 priority was 2014’s biggest challenge. For example, if the organization indicated that engagement was a major challenge, the majority of those respondents identified engagement as their 2015 priority. “In other words, organizational decision makers are focusing their attention on the issues that challenge them the most,” Gibson said.

Lintrap said that the key to maximizing employee engagement and productivity was to start with a solid foundation. “Ensuring that your workplace is healthy before embarking on other initiatives to drive engagement and increase productivity is essential,” he said in the release. “Otherwise, you run the risk of having employees who are highly productive for a while, but eventually burn out. This leads to job dissatisfaction, increased turnover and disability.”

He also noted the importance of mental health in the workplace, noting that almost five times as many survey respondents planned to focus on workplace mental health over physical health in 2015. “Employees aren’t going to be interested in helping the organization achieve goals if they’re too stressed or depressed to come to work,” he said.

Lintrap recommended that organizations reduce the stigma of mental illness by building awareness and educating leaders, managers and co-workers around mental health triggers and treatment. Second, they should ensure that support services, such as employee and family assistance programs that integrate with other benefit plans, are in place to help employees with personal and professional stress, as well as mental health conditions. “Once you have a healthy workplace, then you’ve created the foundation necessary for higher employee engagement and increased productivity,” he said.

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