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BACKGROUNDER

Ministry Focusing on Infection Control Hazards


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

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

Ministry inspectors will check for infection hazards that could result in worker exposure and illness.

Over the past decade, a number of outbreaks related to infectious diseases (such as norovirus, Clostridium difficile, and influenza) have affected workers and others in health and community care workplaces.

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
  • Poor hand hygiene practices
  • People with infectious diseases.

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 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 requirements under the OHSA and regulations:

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 the use of personal protective equipment, safe use and disposal of sharps, maintenance of ventilation systems, and cleaning and disinfection. They will also check that workers are following safe work practices and use the required personal protective equipment.

Personal Protective Equipment and Safety Devices: Inspectors will check that personal protective equipment (for example gloves, eye protection, masks 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 sharp medical devices 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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