A non-profit organization running a social housing facility in Coquitlam has been fined nearly $134,000 for failing to take action on WorkSafeBC orders.
Deficiencies at the Coast Mental Health centre ranged from not having a protocol to deal with missing knives to having employees work alone around patients who could potentially harm them.
Coast Mental Health subsequently appealed the penalty.
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The Coast Mental Health’s facility houses approximately 30 psychiatric patients transitioning back into the community.
Two inspections found three violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) on May 25 and July 27, 2022. Inspectors were looking for infractions related to the potential for workplace violence faced by the facility’s 22 employees.
WorkSafeBC said in an email that 24 injury claims related to acts of violence have been made at Coast Mental Health between 2017 and 2021.
While Coast Mental Health has various policies and procedures in place to keep its employees safe, the inspector called them “deficient” in reports.
“The facility’s violence risk assessment was insufficient, and did not adequately address matters such as off-site appointments, clients’ medication status, and access to kitchen sharps. The employer failed to ensure its violence risk assessment included consideration of the work location and circumstances,” WorkSafeBC’s website stated. “This was a repeated violation.”
In jobs with an inherent risk to workers, employers are required to establish protocols to minimize that risk as much as possible, according to OSHA.
In 2020, one patient used a knife in “threatening behaviour” towards people on site.
Patients have access to kitchen equipment for cooking programs at the facility. WorkSafeBC inspectors found the protocols around accounting kitchen sharps (knives and scissors) deficient. Sharps are counted at the end of each day, and patients’ rooms are searched if any are missing. However, no protocol is in place if the sharps remain missing, or if the keys to the sharps storage drawer go missing.
Inspectors also took issue with employees being required to work alone throughout their shifts around patients who could potentially harm them.
While employees pair up to search rooms during weapons, alcohol, or illicit seizures, they conduct weekly searches of patients’ rooms alone.
Workers record check-ins at predetermined times, but inspectors noted there were no there was no provision in place for emergency rescues.
WorkSafeBC ordered a revision of the procedures to include provisions around emergency rescues, regular checks on the well-being of workers, and guidelines if a worker cannot be contacted.
The last infraction noted by inspectors related to deficiencies in the facility’s violence-risk assessment (VRA), which determines how dangerous certain circumstances are for employees.
Patients at the facility are categorized as green (low risk), yellow (moderate) or red (high risk).
Employees are required to drive patients to various appointments, administer medication, intervene in patient-on-patient conflicts, provide cognitive rehabilitation and group therapy services, treat patients in medical distress, and evaluate baseline behaviours when returning from a day trip.
Inspectors found that the VRA does not consider how certain patients, or environmental conditions, could increase the risk of violence towards workers carrying out these duties.
For instance, the potential for violence exists if a patient refuses to take medication, or returns from a day trip intoxicated.
Inspectors note that although the knife incident from 2020 was recorded in the employer’s history of violence documentation, the VRA for the kitchen worksite does not detail the location’s risk of allowing patients’ unsupervised access to potential weapons.
Coast Mountain Health was given between three and seven weeks to prepare a compliance report for each infraction, detailing how they plan to revise their policies.
The fine was issued on Nov. 24, 2022.
Coast Mental Health appeals fine
“We are disappointed with this decision and disagree with certain findings in the report,” stated a recent release from Coast Mountain Health.
Coast Mental Health has made “significant investments” in safety over the last six years, according to the release. Those investments including dedicated safety positions and training as well as “greater access to online learning and support for our employees,” the release stated.
Coast Mountain Health has filed an appeal with WorkSafeBC.