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Northern Health fined for work safety investigation violations

WorkSafeBC issues $355,244.39 fine after investigation finds 'repeated violations' following violence against long-term care worker
The Peace Villa care home in Fort St. John. (Alaska Highway News)

Northern Health has received a significant work safety fine for failing to properly complete investigation reports after a violent incident against a worker at the Peace Villa care home in Fort St. John.

WorkSafeBC says it fined the health authority $355,244.39 on Nov. 10, inspecting the facility after what it called an "incident of violence against a worker."

“WorkSafeBC examined the employer’s investigation reports for this and several previous incidents and found that they all lacked key information such as underlying causes and corrective actions,” the agency reported on its website.

“The employer failed to ensure that a report of its full incident investigation was prepared in accordance with WorkSafeBC policies. This was a repeated violation.”

No further details about the incidents in question were provided or immediately available from WorkSafeBC. 

In a statement released Wednesday, Northern Health said it was "committed" to complying with B.C.'s occupational health and safety regulations, and that its “injury rate is lower than the provincial healthcare average.”

“In Peace Villa, our measurable rates are trending positively, such as reduced violent interactions,” the statement said.

“The Peace Villa team continues to improve investigations (including information identified by WorkSafeBC as key for the report, such as job titles and phone numbers), with additional training and on-going support from their Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee.”

Northern Health - Administr... by AlaskaHighwayNews

The health authority said it's assessing the penalty from WorkSafeBC, and providing the agency with more information about the work that's been completed since it was issued.

"Northern Health has a robust reporting process to address hazards and near-misses to support a strong safety culture and environment," the statement said.

It added, “We hope to re-visit proposals we had previously submitted to WSBC prior and during the pandemic that will address the administrative challenges we face from the current system."

"That proposal included plans to invest and improve the provincial incident investigation platform to support our staff in reporting efficiently and generating thorough investigation reports," the statement said.

News of the fine has prompted the BC Nurses’ Union to call for a provincial audit of all occupational health and safety reports from the last year. 

The union noted similar issues in other health authorities, such as on Vancouver Island, and says an audit will “ensure investigations are conducted and that corrective actions are put in place to keep health care workers safe.”

“While the recent announcement of new protection security officers is a step in the right direction, this shows us there is much more that needs to happen within health authorities to make worksites safer for nurses and all health care workers,” BCNU president Aman Grewal stated in a press release.

“The fact is, all provincial health authorities use the same provincial reporting system, and we know there are issues with the system as we’ve seen with this penalty.”

In October, the provincial government announced plans to hire up to 320 security officers to address workplace violence of health care staff.

However, only select hospitals throughout the province were chosen for the new officers, and only three of the 35 would be in the Northern Health Authority – the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George, Mills Memorial in Terrace, and the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.

The hospitals in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek were not included in the announcement.