British Columbia

'You can't fix what you don't know': Advocate encourages care workers to report incidents of violence

Jennifer Lyle, CEO of SafeCare B.C., an industry-funded non-profit that works to prevent violence against home support workers, says some care workers are reluctant to report instances of violence.

Violent acts are the 5th leading cause of workplace injuries for home care workers, but many remain unreported

According to reports obtained through WorkSafe B.C., acts of violence are the fifth leading cause of workplace injuries for home care workers.  (Lighthunter/Shutterstock)

Care workers in B.C. face a number of challenges on the job, including violence and harassment. 

Jennifer Lyle is the CEO of SafeCare B.C. — an industry-funded nonprofit that works to prevent violence against home support workers. She says according to reports obtained through WorkSafe B.C., acts of violence are the fifth leading cause of workplace injuries for home care workers. 

These acts of violence can include instances where people have been hit, bitten, spat upon, slapped, pinched or yelled at.

But Lyle says not everything gets reported.

She says some reports say almost 90 per cent of workers have experienced either acts of physical violence or verbal violence.

Reasons for underreporting

Lyle says there are a number of reasons workers might underreport incidents of violence.

There is a perception that the person — who might be elderly or have dementia — isn't responsible for their harmful actions and so a care worker may excuse it.

"In some cases, there's a perception that, 'If I report it, nothing will get done.' Sometimes there's a concern around retaliation and sometimes, too, there's just sort of this general, 'It's kind of part of the job,'" she said. 

Lyle says it's important for care workers to report incidents because, "You can't fix what you don't know."

There are root causes behind every incident, she says, and it's important to understand the context that led to the incident. 

"We have a terminology we use [called] a near-miss event. That's where something happened and it could have gone badly but it didn't," she explained.

"If we have a culture of reporting where people are coming forward, they're making these reports ... the incident investigations are happening, and the follow-up actions are following from that, you will see safer workplaces."

Listen to the interview on CBC's On The Coast here:


Taking Care is a week-long radio series exploring the challenges facing care workers. The series runs Sept. 16 - 20 on CBC Radio One's afternoon shows in B.C.

With files from On The Coast

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