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OPSEU makes great strides to prevent workplace violence at CAMH

On July 4, 2018, OPSEU Local 500 held a Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)/union barbecue, where local president Nancy Pridham, Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) Local 054 president Danielle Larmand and CAMH CEO Dr. Catherine Zahn handed out a scroll listing achievements made over the last year to prevent workplace violence. They include:

  • a new Workplace Violence Prevention Committee chaired by Dr. Zahn that includes the OPSEU and ONA local presidents, as well as union health and safety officers
  • workplace violence zero tolerance signage posted across the organization
  • updated personal alarms in good working order for staff
  • new onsite, free CAMH psychological services for staff
  • new supervisor competency training designed, piloted and jointly delivered by unions and management (28 days of training from October 2018 to April 2019)
  • highly visible, involved and trained joint health and safety committees, with more members certified, and recognized around CAMH
  • a new trauma-informed de-escalation education for safety and self-protection (TIDES) program, developed jointly with union presidents and central safety officers, to be launched this fall
  • a second wellness centre added which, together, offer 17 group-exercise classes weekly, as well as therapeutic rooms for use following traumatic and critical incidents
  • an external risk assessment of three high-acuity units, which delivered 90 recommendations that will be implemented in those units and across CAMH

Pridham characterized the workplace violence prevention efforts at CAMH as “historic, positive, and exciting.” She said it was a sea change from two years ago when, on July 16, 2016, CAMH pleaded guilty and received an $80,000 fine after a patient assaulted a nurse patrolling the floor alone on night shift.

More serious attacks on workers continued, with critical injuries occurring in the latter part of 2016. After the attacks in the fall, the Pridham and Larmand went on a campaign to stop the violence.

They met with the then-Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn in October 2016. With almost 70 years of service between them, the local presidents described the workplace violence their members faced every day and discussed their own efforts to get CAMH’s commitment to preventing workplace violence.

Following the meeting, the OPSEU and ONA locals and their members picketed their workplace and an employer conference, and developed and sent a petition to the Board of Trustees demanding action on worker safety.

All the activity got the CEO’s attention. After introductory meetings with both unions, Dr. Zahn brought together her senior leaders and got CAMH on the path to acting on workplace violence.

One year can make a big difference. Over that span of time, 10 Workplace Violence Committee meetings have been held. Many improvements are in place already, and there are more to come. The aim is to make the workplace safer and healthier for all.

The unions and the employer may still disagree from one issue to the next. The difference is that efforts are being made and time is being taken to reach constructive solutions that take us in the right direction.

We are excited to present our progress at the Sixth Annual Workplace Violence Conference in Toronto, to be held at the Holiday Inn, Toronto International Airport, October 24-26, 2018.


ONA Local 054 president Danielle Lamard (left) with OPSEU Local 500 president Nancy Pridham