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BACKGROUNDER

Ministry Focusing on Infection Control Hazards

Ministry of Labour inspectors will focus on hazards affecting infection prevention and control at health care workplaces across Ontario in November.

The increased enforcement is part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario strategy, launched in June 2008.

Ministry inspectors will check for contraventions involving an employer’s responsibility to protect workers, such as establishing safe work practices, providing worker training and ensuring personal protective equipment is used and maintained.

Over the past decade, infectious diseases have gained prominence in Ontario health care facilities due to a number of outbreaks such as norovirus, clostridium difficile (c.difficile), and influenza.

More than 500,000 workers in the health care sector are at risk of being exposed to these and other infectious diseases. They work at more than 6,000 hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes and other workplaces across Ontario.

Health care workers are at risk of infection from exposure to:

  • Needle stick injuries
  • Blood or body fluids
  • Contaminated medical supplies and equipment
  • Poor maintenance of ventilation systems, and/or
  • Poor hand hygiene practices.

In 2010, more than 1,150 workers in the health care sector filed infectious diseases claims that were approved by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Blitz Focus

Ministry inspectors will focus on hospitals, long-term care facilities, retirement homes and community health centers. These health care workplaces may have a higher risk of exposure and transmission of infectious agents than any other workplaces.

Preventing and controlling infections at health care workplaces will improve worker health and safety and lead to quality health care.

Inspectors will take enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any contraventions found under the:

Priorities

Inspectors will focus on the following key priorities:

Employer Duties: Inspectors will check to ensure employers have taken all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers from infection hazards. They will also check that employers are reporting occupational illnesses to the Ministry of Labour, trade union (if any) and the workplace’s Joint Health and Safety Committee.

Safe Work Practices: Inspectors will check to ensure employers have developed practices such as respirator fit-testing, safe use and disposal of sharps, maintenance of ventilation systems, and cleaning and disinfection, for the protection of workers from infection hazards. They will also check that workers are following safe work practices and use the required personal protective equipment. They will also check that workplace parties are inspecting the workplace for infection hazards.

Personal Protective Equipment and Safety Devices: Inspectors will check that personal protective equipment, for example gloves, eye protection and respirators, are being properly used and maintained. They will also check that workers have access to appropriate hygiene facilities. Inspectors will also check that workers are safely handling and using safety-engineered needles.

Worker Information, Education and Training: Inspectors will check that workers are aware of infection hazards in the workplace and are trained in the safe handling, storage, use, disposal and transport of infectious agents. Inspectors will also check that workers have appropriate information, instruction and supervision to protect their health and safety.

Matt Blajer, Communications Branch, 416-326-7405

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