Workers Health & Safety Centre

Violence prevention in health care: Report offers blueprint

Nurse walks through hospital with security guard
The Ontario government has released a progress report with 23 recommendations designed to reduce workplace violence against nurses and other health care workers in hospitals.
The recommendations and accompanying resources in the progress report, entitled Preventing Workplace Violence in the Health Care Sector, are endorsed by the Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care Leadership Table.
The Leadership Table was established in August 2015 in response to the demands of health care workers tired of being assaulted at work and their representatives who continue to call on the government and employers to meet their regulatory and legal obligations to ensure worker safety. 
The Leadership Table is a joint initiative between Ontario’s Minister of Labour and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care along with workers, their representatives, patient advocates, researchers and employers. Its role, to provide advice to employers and government regulators helping them to design and implement prevention programs to reduce violent incidents and make health care settings safer for workers and patients.

Key recommendations

In fact, input from the Leadership Table and its Working Groups formed the basis for the recommendations. Among them are calls for improved communications as a means of preparing for an incoming patient who might pose a risk of violence.
Other recommendations relate to:
  • Ensuring workplace violence policies are included in hospital quality improvement plans.
  • Creating effective reporting and investigating processes for workplace violence incidents.
  • Supporting efforts to create psychologically safe and healthy work environments.
  • Clarifying nurses right to refuse unsafe work.
  • Increasing workplace supports for patients with known aggressive or violent behaviours.
  • Ensuring patients, families and staff provide input on triggers, behaviours and interventions.
The report also recommends the province develop and implement a training standard for those providing security in hospitals.

Keys to prevention

“For years, employees have said better security training will result in fewer injuries,” says Warren “Smokey” Thomas, president, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and member of the Leadership Table. “I’m pleased the report recognizes this relationship. Let’s get on with doing something about it.”
The progress report also emphasizes “There must be zero tolerance for workplace violence. One incident is one too many.”
Thomas is pleased with this declaration but says “Zero tolerance will only be achieved if the report’s recommendations are implemented in their entirety and with strict enforcement measures.”
Linda Haslam-Stroud, president, Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), one of four members of the executive committee of the Leadership Table and a registered nurse herself is also anxious to see the recommendations acted upon.
“Our members have the right to work in an environment that is free from all forms and sources of violence and harassment, and employers must strive to eliminate the risks. The workplace violence progress report is a step in the right direction to prevent violence in health care.”
According to ONA, they will work with the government to facilitate implementation of the 23 recommendations contained in the progress report and will also continue to advocate for other preventive actions necessary to achieve safer work environments ranging from adequate staffing to strengthening provincial enforcement initiatives.
Implementation of the recommendations will take place in three phases. Phase 1 will focus on nurses in hospital settings; Phase 2 will focus on all workers in hospital and long term care homes; and Phase 3 will focus on all workers in the broader health care sector.

Preventive actions across all sectors

Beyond the health care sector, all Ontario employers have significant legal obligations to address workplace violence and harassment. Chief among these duties is the requirement for employers to develop and implement workplace violence and harassment policies and program(s). To this end the employer must also provide all workers with information and instruction on the content of these policies and related measures.
For our part, the Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) offers a range of resources and a three-hour Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention Training program designed to help workplace parties better understand workplace violence, harassment and bullying and to fully comply with legal obligations. We also offer training programs to help employers meet the training and competency requirements for supervisors.
Want to read Preventing Workplace Violence in the Health Care Sector progress report?
Want to know more about violence awareness, prevention and resources in the health care sector?  
Want to access WHSC violence and harassment resources and other related information?  
To learn more:
Call:     1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training services representative