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Non-compliance with safety regulations blamed for violent incidents in B.C. hospitals

Statistics from WorkSafeBC show that, between 2005 and 2012, more than 3,720 health care workers suffered injuries because of violence at work. That figure is particularly alarming when you consider that, during the same period of time, 241 workers in law enforcement were injured.

Hospitals, psychiatric wards and other health care facilities are required to have a plan for dealing with patients who are known to present a risk of violence, and WorkSafeBC has in fact penalized every health authority in the province because of violent incidents. However, health care workers and union representatives say that more needs to be done to protect workers from injury.

In an incident in 2013, a recreational therapist at Vancouver Coastal Health was attacked by a patient who was known to have assaulted health care workers in the past, but that part of his history was left out of his chart. WorkSafeBC also discovered that the panic alarm nearest the attack wasn't working, and this is believed to have prolonged the attack.

Assaults on nurses at an adolescent treatment facility in Kamloops and a psychiatric hospital in Burnaby have also been blamed on lack or failure of alarm systems. Hospitals that fail to comply with such requirements can be fined tens of thousands of dollars.

In fact, following the attack on the recreational therapist at Vancouver Coastal Health, WorkSafeBC levied a $75,000 fine.

A CBC News article describes several other violent incidents that resulted in injury to health care workers.

For more on legal matters related to injuries in the workplace, please see Overholt Law's Occupational Health and Safety overview.

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