A recent court decision in Ontario has AUPE calling on employers, especially those in health care, to take steps to create safe workplaces for their employees.

On July 18, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to implement procedures to protect a nurse from workplace violence. The charge was a result of a January 2014 incident, where a nurse was patrolling the halls alone at night and was attacked by a patient. She sustained significant injuries, and both she and a nurse who came to her aid now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and have been unable to return to work.

“We are currently seeing a rise in the number of assaults against our members in health care,” said AUPE vice president Erez Raz, who chairs AUPE’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee. “As this case from Ontario proves, employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from violence or the potential for violence.”

Since the incident, CAMH has instituted a policy where nurses now do night patrols in pairs.

“It’s the employer’s responsibility to examine their policies and procedures and see where they might be lacking when it comes to protecting their employees’ safety, and make changes now,” said Raz. “Workplace violence is a real threat, in health care and in other sectors, and the time to make it a priority is now, before an incident threatens someone’s life.”