Health and safety challenges for three quarters of a million health care workers

There are more than three-quarter of a million health care workers in Ontario.

Not only are patients aging and requiring more intensive care, but the workforce itself is aging and facing increases workload stress.

The Ministry of Labour has issued its 2012-13 health and safety plan for the sector, noting these kinds of increased challenges.

That includes musculoskeletal disorders related to increased residential care – especially when increasingly the workplace is in “uncontrolled environments” such as a patient’s home.

The plan has recognized need for physicians to consider their occupational health and safety responsibilities in their role as employers and supervisors.

The Ministry of Labour is also partnering with Public Health Ontario, the Ministry of Health and the Public Services Health and Safety Association on issues related to infection control. That includes providing education and training to all inspectors to help them better respond to these issues.

The plan also includes a focus on developmental services group homes, safe handling of antineoplastic drugs, and ventilation of gases from magnetic resonance imaging equipment.

Musculoskeletal injuries to continue to represent the largest percentage of lost time injuries at 47 per cent. Exposure to chemical, biological and physical agents is second at 17 per cent while slips trips and falls represent 15 per cent of lost time injuries. Other significant hazards include workplace violence and injuries related to vehicles and machinery.

The Ministry reports that it has stepped up proactive visits in the health sector, rising from 1,598 visits in 2010 to 2,254 in 2011. Workplace inspections are also up, from 1,364 in 2010 to 1,672 in 2011.

Since 2007 there have been three work-related deaths in the health sector.

For 2012-13 the Ministry of Labour says in addition to compliance inspectors will focus on the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) with particular emphasis on competent supervision, responsibilities of directors and officers of corporations, and the effectiveness of joint health and safety committees and health and safety representatives.

To download a PDF of the full Ministry of Labour health care plan for 2012-13, click here.

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