Workers Health & Safety Centre

OLRB dismisses application to suspend orders in infection control case

OLRB dismisses application to suspend orders in infection control case
On July 6, 2012, the Ontario Labour Relations Board dismissed an application from ACCQcorp, a sleep disorder clinic in Waterloo, to suspend orders requiring the clinic to ensure “workers have measures and procedures for the wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to prevent exposure to Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA).”
The orders were issued on May 15 in response to a complaint to the Ministry of Labour from an ACCQcorp employee. When an order is being appealed, an applicant can also apply to suspend the order until there is a decision on the appeal. ACCQcorp’s appeal has not yet been scheduled.
MRSA is a strain of Staphylococcus Aureus (“staph”) bacterium with resistance to a range of treatments including penicillins. The bacterium is usually transmitted by direct contact with an infected person’s skin, though MRSA can also be transmitted on dead skin being carried as dust. MRSA infections commonly appear as skin inflections or abscesses, but can also cause more serious infections in the lungs and heart valves. The threat from MRSA is not an increased virulence compared to other staph infections, but the difficulty in effective treatment.
The OLRB applied its usual three-part criteria in making its decision about an application for a suspension:
  • Would a suspension endanger worker safety?
  • Would a suspension prejudice the applicant?
  • Does the applicant have a strong prima facie case for the appeal?

The OLRB places the onus on the applicant to address the three-part criteria to the Board’s satisfaction.
The employer did not deny that the hazard of MRSA existed in the workplace, but argued that it had been effectively addressed and provided two documents to support their argument. The first document, titled “MRSA Cleaning and Disinfection Protocol,” was given no weight by the OLRB as the employer did not indicate how the document related to its actual policies and procedures. The second document, a 2007 letter from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care reporting an assessment, was also given no weight due in part to the age of the letter.
The MOL took the position that ACCQcorp did not have any screening procedures, infection control procedures or personal protective equipment to guard against MRSA transmission.
The OLRB agreed that suspending the orders would endanger workers and found there was no evidence that maintaining the order would cause any prejudice to the employer or that the employer had a strong prima facie case. Failing to meet the thee-part criteria, the OLRB dismissed the application and let the orders stand.