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Health organization appealing $134K Tri-Cities facility safety fine

WorkSafeBC cited a repeated failed violence risk assessment at Hillside Cottage, but Coast Mental Health disagrees with the inspection reports.
Hillside Building in Port Coquitlam is run by Coastal Mental Health for its rehabilitation and recovery program.

A six-figure penalty is being contested by a B.C. health organization after its recovery building in the Tri-Cities was fined late last year.

Coast Mental Health (CMH) received a violation ticket worth $133,755.21 after the province's workplace safety agency reported it failed to reduce the risk of violence at Hillside Cottage.

The Vancouver-based company, formerly known as the Coast Foundation Society, was also issued an order to comply with certain Health and Safety provisions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

CMH officially filed on Jan. 4 and the appeal remains in its early stages.

"[...] we are disappointed with this decision and disagree with certain findings in the report and have now filed an appeal with WorkSafeBC," the organization said in a statement on its website

"The health and safety of all employees and clients is a top priority for Coast. And, we have always been a collaborative partner with WorkSafeBC in an effort to continuously improve our practices."

Hillside Cottage is a 40-bed social services housing facility located on Campion Way on the Coquitlam side of Lougheed Highway, though it was cited as a Port Coquitlam site in the violation report.

According to WorkSafeBC, CMH displayed "insufficient" measures to prevent violence risks during the fall inspection and added the firm "did not adequately address" important issues.

This included keeping records of off-site appointments, clients' medication status and "access to kitchen sharps."

"The employer failed to ensure its violence risk assessment included consideration of the work location and circumstances....This was a repeated violation."

But CMH believes it's committed to ensuring a respectful environment for workers and patients at Hillside, which it explained had included several updates to its operational infrastructure.

"Coast Mental Health has an ongoing commitment to the safety of its employees and the people in our care, and we recognize the potential for violence exists in our workplace," a spokesperson said in a statement to the Tri-City News.

"Over the last six years, we have made significant investments....including dedicated safety positions and training, as well as the recent roll out of our learning management system that provides greater access to online learning and support for our employees."

Regardless of outcome, CMH added it will continue to "embrace feedback" in making safety improvements to its workplace and housing conditions.

It's not known how long the appeal process will take place.

WorkSafeBC stats show more than 4,000 appeals were requested in the third quarter of 2022 — 65 were rejected, 111 were declined, 543 were withdrawn and 2,424 were completed.

CMH recently received back-to-back B.C. Top Employer honours, 2021 and 2022, for its in-house and online training initiatives for workers.

As well, the organization recently received a third consecutive exemplary standing status from Accreditation Canada for "demonstrating excellence in quality improvements."

Hillside Cottage is said to support 15 women and 25 men recovering from severe mental illnesses and addiction.

Patients are referred to the Tri-Cities facility from the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addictions or the Heartwood Treatment Centre for Women, according to CMH's website.