Nurses' union calls for changes to OHS act

Three nurses attacked at a Toronto hospital

Following attacks on three nurses over two days earlier this month at the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Ontario Nurses Association is calling for a change in workplace safety legislation.

The attacks involved two separate incidents at the hospital's Queen Street West site.

In the first attack in the early hours of Nov. 13, a patient attacked a nurse, breaking his shoulder, and then beat another nurse who witnessed the attack. The next morning, a different patient head-butted and punched a nurse, breaking his jaw.

"This situation is outrageous and is beyond unacceptable," said Ontario Nurses Association president Linda Haslam-Stroud. "We're seeing more and more of these types of attacks on our front-line nurses."

The union wants the provincial government to write the "precautionary principle" into the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which the late Justice Archie Campbell recommended in his SARS report earlier this year.

"We should not be driven by the scientific dogma of yesterday or even the scientific dogma of today. We should be driven by the precautionary principle that reasonable steps to reduce risk should not await scientific certainty," Justice Campbell wrote in his report.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to take every reasonable precaution reasonable to protect of workers from all hazards, including workplace violence, said Haslam-Stroud.

"These recent attacks show that employers are not taking every reasonable precaution," she said. "Therefore, nurses are now demanding the precautionary principle be embedded in health and safety legislation and adopted in all employer policies, government directives and regulations."

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