The TAT judge ruled in favour of the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec–FIQ and FIQP | Secteur privé who have led this important battle for the protection of healthcare professionals. He acknowledged that the precautionary principle should have been applied given the significant risk of airborne transmission of the virus which has been widely demonstrated. The judge goes even further in his conclusions than the CNESST and public health in its most recent directive on the wearing of respiratory protective devices. He ordered institutions to provide an N95 mask to all healthcare professionals, whether in a hot or warm zone and as soon as a resident is suspected of having or has COVID-19.
“For more than a year, the FIQ and FIQP have led this battle. We are very satisfied with the decision. This victory is significant and far-reaching because it recognizes that the employer’s obligation must be to strive for the highest standards and not just the bare minimum. The Vigi-Santé and CISSS de l’Outaouais institutions have therefore breached their obligations under the OHSA. But more broadly, it is the government that has not been responsive by refusing to be proactive as required by its own law. It’s appalling that we had to fight for a judge to finally recognize the obvious. We now expect the latter will correct the situation with the managers of all institutions in Quebec. The judge confirmed what we always said: the precautionary principle must be applied in occupational health and safety.”Nancy Bédard, President, Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec-FIQ
“The precedence of occupational health and safety rules over public health rules has been established once and for all. The OHSA is a law of public order, i.e., no employer can ignore it. This obligation is far from trivial in the context of the public health emergency. However, since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has sent the opposite signal when the Provincial Director of Public Health adopted an order preventing access to N95 masks and when he chose to vigorously contest all the appeals brought by the Federations in matters of health and safety at work. Despite the risk of airborne transmission of the virus and repeated requests of the Federations to apply the precautionary principle, the obstinacy of the government and the managers in this context remains inexplicable and shocking.”Linda Lapointe, Vice-President, Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec-FIQ
“ In the short term, the government is asked to send a signal to all institutions in the health network to comply with the decision now. It was our responsibility to ensure that the health and safety of the healthcare professionals and health of the residents was respected. In the face of a potentially deadly threat for which the world has deployed extraordinary health measures, the government and employers have tolerated that those who are the backbone of the network are sent to the front lines with the bare minimum to protect themselves and their patients . They were particularly negligent when they were responsible for a clientele known to be very vulnerable to the virus. They should have made it their priority. How many rulings are needed for our demands to be taken seriously?”Sonia Mancier, President, FIQ | Secteur privé
Highlights of the ruling:
- The precautionary principle must be applied in occupational health and safety.
- The Tribunal orders the wearing of N95 masks in warm and hot zones, whenever a patient is suspected of having COVID-19. Medical masks are not an appropriate PPE.
- The Tribunal finds that the preponderance of evidence supports the airborne mode of transmission.
- It has been shown that some of the employers involved in the action have not complied with their obligation to identify hot, warm or buffer zones, and that they have not complied with their obligations to identify dedicated hot and warm zone teams.
The Federations hope that this ruling concludes the debate on the priority that should be given to establishing a genuine culture of prevention in the health network.