Workers Health & Safety Centre

OLRB rules “No Lift” policy covers EMS workers in non-emergency situations

OLRB rules  “No Lift” policy covers EMS workers in non-emergency situations
When an infirm resident at the Oak Park LaSalle private retirement home in Windsor couldn’t move from her chair to bed, supervisors at the home were left with a problem. The retirement home had no patient lifting equipment and a strict “no lift” policy. So the managers of the home called 9-1-1 to get municipal Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers to do the job.
The EMS workers did the lift. After leaving though, they called the Ministry of Labour (MOL) to register a complaint. They had been required to lift a patient, despite the home’s no lift policy.
The MOL followed up on the complaint on April 20, 2011. An Inspector left the employer with orders under 25(2) (h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The orders instructed the employer “to provide mechanical lifting devices and training of workers to allow the workers to lift and transfer resident without exposing any worker to the excessive risks caused by manual lifting.”
The employer filed one application to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to appeal the orders and another to suspend the orders pending the appeal.
In a hearing on the suspension application heard July 6, 2011, the employer argued the policy did not cover the EMS crew, who were not employees of Oak Park LaSalle. In response, the Inspector argued the Oak Park LaSalle was an employer and the EMS employees were workers within the meaning of the Act. He argued, in this non-emergency situation, the employer’s duties to the EMS workers were as real as their duties to their own direct employees.
Being a suspension application, the OLRB vice-chair did not make a decision on the legal arguments that would be brought at the appeal hearing. However, he did agree that suspending the order for patient lifting devices could endanger worker safety and, on the face of it, the Inspector had a legal argument to back his order. The vice-chair declined to suspend the order.
After failing to win the suspension, the employer purchased the equipment to comply with the orders and withdrew the appeal application.