Workplace Violence Prevention and the Law

Every other day it seems that there is another incident highlighted in the media where someone working in their workplace has been the innocent victim of an act of violence.
Every province and territory in Canada has occupational health and regulations which speak to the responsibilities of businesses regarding the people who work there.
There are federal regulations as well.
Part II of the Canada Labour Code deals with occupational health and safety matters and its purpose is to “prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with or occurring in the course of employment at federally regulated employers.”
One of the pieces of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (Part XX) focuses on violence in the workplace.
Protecting employees from violence in the workplace is one of enormous importance. When we go to work, we expect to be safe not constantly looking over our shoulder and peeking around corners to see what danger is hiding there.
The Workplace Violence Prevention Regulations are there to ensure that employers take the necessary steps and measures to prevent or minimize the occurrence of violence in the workplace. They are also designed to ensure that employees are protected against workplace violence and that they have options available to them if they find themselves exposed to it in the workplace.

The following 6 Steps are the ones that employers are responsible for:

Step 1: Developing a policy
Step 2: Indentifying contributing factors
Step 3: Assessing those factors
Step 4: Choosing controls and prevention measures
Step 5: Responding to occurrences and
Step 6: Ensuring employee education and training
Develop a Policy
Step 1: Developing a Policy through consultation and participation:
In a healthy and safe workplace, employers are engaged with their workforce through an open consultation process and the journey to effectively address workplace hazards is no different. The Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) committee should be the group which is engaged to work on the development and creation of the organization’s Prevention of Workplace Violence Policy.
In your efforts to achieve a violence-free workplace, the members of the OH&S committee need to understand exactly what it is that they are trying to accomplish.
In order to do this, the OH&S committee should be provided with appropriate training that will enable them to carry out their responsibilities.
The OH&S committee should:

  • Understand what constitutes workplace violence
  • Identify the factors that may contribute to violence in the workplace in order to participate in workplace inspections and similar tasks
  • Understand the issues of privacy and confidentiality related to the prevention of violence in the workplace

Understanding the ‘language and culture’ of workplace violence is critical to being able to effectively develop and implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Program. You wouldn’t travel to a foreign land and expect to immediately be able to communicate with the locals without at least trying to understand their language and culture.
It is the same with workplace violence.
[Editors Note: Watch for the continuation of this series over the next few weeks.]