By Dewey Funk, UNA Occupational Health & Safety Advisor
Section 18 of the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act stipulates that an employer must report a serious injury or accident that results in death, injury or hospitalization of a worker for two days or more.
I have discussed with Government of Alberta, Occupational Health and Safety Officers how many reports they have received regarding serious injuries and accidents from health care workers. Their answer was astounding: None!
When a nurse was choked so severely by a patient she had to be admitted to Intensive Care, how could this not have been considered a serious injury? Yet no one reported that injury.
The sad part is that many workers do not know about this requirement because most front-line workers have never received the training about the types of injury that must be reported under the OH&S Act. Employers are breaking the law if they do not report such injuries.
By law, employers must conduct an investigation surrounding each incident, prepare a report outlining how the incident/injury occurred, note any corrective action taken to prevent another incident/injury from occurring, and keep the report on record for two years in case an officer needs it to investigate.
Not reporting the injury means there will be no examination of employer policies and procedures that could prevent other incidents from happening.
When I think about the nurse who was admitted to ICU, I think about how this type of injury effects not just her but everyone else. She had to go through recovery, not just from the physical injury but from the physiological injury as well. Her husband, children and other family members had to help their loved one through the process of recovery.
We also have to look at her co-workers who were there, who assisted her in breaking away from the patient. They witnessed their co-worker, colleague, friend being choked by a patient. What are their injuries? Who cares for them? They suffer in silence, go about their duties after all it’s about the patient…. Really?
Accordingly, I am making this request of every nurse in UNA: When there is a serious accident or injury at your worksite, please report it to me either by email or phone so we can do a follow-up to ensure reporting is done.
The Government of Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Officers can only investigate reported incidents. I will report on your behalf so you do not have to reveal your name.
I don’t ever again want to sit in silence and disbelief and ponder how this could happen!