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Antibiotic-Resistant Patients Posed Workplace Hazard: Inspector’s PPE Order Not Suspended

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An Ontario Ministry of Labour inspector has ordered a sleep laboratory to provide personal protective equipment to employees because of the safety risk posed by patients who may be resistant to antibiotics.  And the Ontario Labour Relations Board has rejected the employer’s request to suspend the order.

The MOL inspector issued the order under the “general duty” clause of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a worker complained about working with patients who were resistant to antibiotics and may have a contagious form of “Methicillin-Resistant Staphyloccoccus Aureus” or MRSA.  The inspector’s order required the employer to ensure that “workers have measures and procedures for the wearing of Personal Protective Equipment . . .”

The employer asked the OLRB to suspend the order pending the employer’s appeal of the order.  It argued that it already had adequate policies in place  – which had been approved by the Ministry of Health – and had provided appropriate training.  The OLRB, in refusing to suspend the order, noted that the employer admitted that MRSA posed a hazard, and the suspension of the order could endanger a worker.

This case demonstrates the broad powers of MOL inspectors to order employers to take positive steps to ensure the safety of workers, and how workers’ safety concerns that are not addressed internally can lead to MOL visits and orders.

Accqcorp v. Matthie, 2012 CanLII 38160 (OLRB)