Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Arbitrator orders security upgrades in parking garage at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre in wake of assault on nurse

Arbitrator orders security upgrades in parking garage at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre in wake of assault on nurse

by Todd Humber

An arbitrator has called out an “unacceptable level of risk to the safety of employees” using a parking garage at the Health Sciences Centre (HSC) hospital in Winnipeg.

Arbitrator Kristin Gibson ordered the employer to implement the same level of safety measures at the William Parkade as currently exist at the Emily and Tecumseh parkades — which includes 24/7 security patrols, lockdowns of stairwells and elevator lobbies, improved lighting, and more security cameras.

“The installation of 24/7 manned security is to occur forthwith,” said Gibson. “The balance of the improvements must be done within a reasonable time frame taking into account the need to repair, replace or install the required infrastructure and hardware.”

Gibson also ordered the hospital to create a safety and security plan for exterior areas of the campus within 30 days.

Three recommendations

The grievance was filed by Health Sciences Centre Nurses Worksite 10 of the Manitoba Nurses Union. It came in the wake of three specific recommendations from the HSC’s Workplace Safety and Health Committee. The recommendations were:

  • Immediately introduce Institutional Safety Officers (ISO) with the training and authority to provide assistance and intervention in situations that require enhanced safety measures for staff and patients.
  • Immediately take the necessary steps to secure/restrict access to all parking facilities, with a 24/7 Security presence including necessary and functional surveillance equipment to further monitor staff and patient safety.
  • Immediately implement a comprehensive Incident Investigation process as determined in the WPSH Act and Regulations with the intention of reviewing serious incidents for future injury reduction/prevention in the future.

Those recommendations were made on May 17, 2023, and the employer’s response was dated June 13, 2023. Summarized, the response to the three recommendations was to defer to the Manitoba Department of Justice on the ISO licensing, to reiterate the existing process for Incident Investigation, and to articulate a detailed plan in response to the second recommendation.

HSC noted that safety in the parkades was “a problem we are actively working on with a high priority.”

Attack on a nurse

The problem at HSC was more than just a theoretical safety risk. On March 27, 2023, a nurse was assaulted while accessing the staff only entrance at 707 McDermot Ave.

That nurse filed a work-related injury/near miss form, which was not — at the time — treated as a critical incident by HSC, which meant it wasn’t forwarded to the Workplace Safety and Health Committee. It wasn’t sent to them until six weeks after, when an inquiry was made about the attack.

“The Employer concedes that this incident ought to have been treated as a critical incident and characterizes it as an oversight,” the arbitration decision read, reflecting on the employer’s admission of the mishandling of the incident.

Problems in parking lots

The arbitrator noted that the improvements in security in the other hospital parkades had pushed the problems to the Williams Parkade.

“The evidence was ultimately clear that the success in securing the Southern parkades moved the problems of theft, vandalism and loitering to the William parkade,” said Gibson.

“It is my opinion that neither the legislative nor the collective agreement requirements to provide a safe workplace were met as of the date of the hearing in respect of the William parkade,” she said.

The arbitrator also called out HSC for failing in its obligations under the Workplace Health and Safety Act to recognize the assault on the nurse in March 2023 as a “critical incident.”

For more information, see Health Sciences Centre Nurses Worksite 10, of the Manitoba Nurses Union v Shared Health, 2024 CanLII 30391 (MB LA).

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