In addition to implementing workplace harassment policies and programs under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers must also develop and implement policies and programs pertaining to workplace violence.
Workplace violence is defined under subsection 32 of the Act as the threat, attempt or exercising of “physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker.” This definition can describe acts considered offences under Canada’s Criminal Code and may have legal consequences beyond and on top of the OHSA.
Employer Duties Against Workplace Violence
For workplaces of six (6) or more regularly employed workers, written policies must be posted in a conspicuous spot in the workplace. Employers must initiate programs to ensure the workplace violence policies are being implemented.
A workplace violence program must outline the measures and procedures for controlling and assessing risks, reporting incidents of violence, how to summon immediate assistance, and how the employer will investigate and handle incidents or complaints of violence in the workplace. It is important employers ensure their employees and workers understand the workplace violence program and what to do if they experience it.
Employer Preventative Measures
It is the responsibility of employers to mitigate workplace violence as best they can before it happens. Part of this includes assessing the risk of violence in your workplace, including what may arise from the type or conditions of the work, or the workplace itself. Employers must report the results of assessments to either the joint health and safety committee or representative.
Controlling risk is a continual priority that requires employers to be aware of violence in similar lines of work and pre-emptively developing measures and procedures to control these identified risks that may expose a worker to physical injury. All of this must be included in the workplace violence program outlined above.
As an employer, if you become aware or reasonably aware of domestic violence that may expose a worker to physical injury in the workplace, you must take reasonable precaution to protect the worker. It is a good practice to incorporate domestic violence into the workplace violence program addressing measures to summon immediate assistance. Workers should feel empowered to report concerns that domestic violence might enter the workplace, such as in the example of a spouse coming to the physical premises of the workplace.
Are you prepared to manage violence in the workplace?
No employer wants to deal with workplace violence, but all employers must be prepared for it.
If you’re dealing with violence in the workplace or want to take measures to prevent or address it, our health and safety experts can help. Call us at 1-888-216-2550 for questions pertaining to workplace violence policies and programs. We can help you ensure you’re meeting your obligations as an employer under the OHSA as well as being a good resource for your employees.