Stats show improvements to Northern Health?s workplace health and safety; more work to reduce injuries planned

In 2003 (the first full year Northern Health?s Integrated Workplace Health and Safety strategy was in effect), the health region saw a 23 per cent decrease in injuries resulting in lost work time and a 57 per cent drop in work days lost due to injuries. These declines are compared to the yearly average from 1997 to 2002. More attention to workplace health and safety means better care for patients, clients, and residents, as improved management and prevention of injuries in the workplace will help in having more staff available to meet care needs in the North.

?Many of the 16 previous organizations that now make up Northern Health didn?t have the resources to support the kind of integrated workplace health and safety strategy that we?re now running,? said Evelyn Dean, Northern Health?s Vice-President of Human Resources. ?This kind of approach is vital in a modern health-care organization. We see effective workplace health and safety as a top priority, to help us retain the staff we need to care for patients, clients, and residents in the North.?

The goal of Northern Health?s Workplace Health and Safety department is to work with committees and staff to protect the health and safety of health employees in the health region. Since the amalgamation of smaller health regions in 2001, Northern Health has built an integrated workplace health and safety department with a budget of nearly $2 million a year. WH&S employees are:

?Making efforts to prevent injuries outright, such as:

oThe installation of patient lifts and other assist devices;

oPartnerships with groups such as the Workers Compensation Board and the Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare (OHSAH);

OHSAH has sponsored PEARS, a pilot program in prevention, early intervention, and active return to work safely

?Building more effective data systems, to spot injury trends to conduct more effective prevention planning; and

?Conducting better follow-up for ill or injured staff, to provide them support and programs they need to return to work as quickly as their recovery permits.

?HEU looks forward to working with Northern Health in their proactive approach to reduce injuries in the workplace,? said Mary Pat Wiley, Hospital Employees? Union Northern Representative. ?We fully support and will participate wherever possible on committees to work towards reducing injuries in the workplace.?

?The situation is far from perfect, but if we work together, we can create healthier workplaces,? said Malcolm Maxwell, Northern Health CEO. ?We still have a great deal of work to do to further prevent injuries and decrease our injury rates. But we have seen measurable progress for protecting the health and safety of our staff, and are moving in the right direction. We also need to support the idea that a healthy and safe workplace is a goal that each of us can help make happen.?

?BCNU is very encouraged by Northern Health?s directives in health and safety, particularly in PEARS, being a jointly supported union and management initiative, in addition to respirator fit testing for dealing with infectious diseases, infection control, functioning joint occupational health and safety committees and violence prevention training.? said Rosemary Gutteridge, BC Nurses Union Northeast Region Occupational Health and Safety Chair.

?PEARS is the OHSAH-sponsored program that is the first step in building internal capacity and resources for a return-to-work program for both work related and non-work related injuries and illnesses,? said Jennifer Wade on behalf of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare. ?OHSAH looks forward to working with Northern Health as they work towards this joint venture.?