Violence in the workplace
Workplace violence is a growing epidemic among healthcare workers, due to the decline of staffing levels, the increase of patient acuity, and weak security protocols which fail to offer adequate protection.
A 2017 survey of nearly 1,700 NBNU members found that over 1,000 of them, or 63.3%, experienced a violent encounter in their workplace over the last 12 months.
According to WorkSafe NB, nurses represented 75% of workplace violence claims within the healthcare industry and miss more than 100 days of work annually while recovering from workplace violence. We also know that long-term disability claims are at the highest levels they have ever been. These numbers are unacceptable and furthermore, we often hear from nurses about even more incidents that go under reported.
On April 1, 2019, New Brunswick became the last province in Canada to enact legislation that includes language on workplace violence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Under the new legislation, every employer in New Brunswick shall:
- Regularly perform and document safety assessments to measure the risk of violence in the workplace;
- Share the results of those assessments with the appropriate representatives and committees;
- Adopt a code of practice that shall “mitigate the risk of violence at the place of employment and ensure the health and safety of employees to the extent possible”.
After 10 years of working to fix the law in our Province, we know this legislation is not perfect, but it is a start. We know that our work will not stop on this very important issue and it doesn’t stop with a legislative change.
The promotion of violence-free workplaces is a shared responsibility among all healthcare stakeholders (government, employers, regulators, educators, nurses, clients and others); and it is important for unions to work alongside these stakeholders to develop solutions for this crisis. We will continue to prioritize this issue; we refuse to accept violence as just “part of the job.”