Thanks to dedicated lobby efforts by our unions, other unions and community advocates, important new amendments and regulations were added to occupational health and safety legislation in Canada. Generally speaking, they name harassment and violence as hazards to the health and safety of the worker and mandate employers to take proactive measures to prevent workplace harassment and violence. The exact legal definition of workplace violence may vary from one jurisdiction, province or territory to another. The federal regulation, for example, says workplace violence means:
any action, conduct, threat, or gestures of a person toward an employee in their workplace that can reasonably be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that employee
Bill 168 came into force in Ontario on June 15, 2010. It extends the right to refuse work if a worker has reason to believe that workplace violence is likely to endanger herself or himself. There are also many new responsibilities for joint health and safety committees. For example, the joint health and safety committee must:
- take part in a hazard assessment for harassment and violence,
- review policies and procedures to make sure they are working effectively to prevent these hazards, and
- name those employer and worker representatives who will take part in investigations of refusals of work due to harassment or violence.
On the Unifor website, under Fact Sheets at the Health, Safety and Environment Department, you can find a detailed description of Bill 168 and how best to make it work.
See also: Occupational Health and Safety Act. R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1 Part III.0., 1, Violence and Harassment; Section 32.0.1 Policies, violence and harassment; Section 32.0.2 Program, violence; Section 32.0.3 Assessment of risks of violence; Section 32.0.4 Domestic violence; Section 32.0.5 Duties re violence; Section 32.0.6 Program, harassment; Section 32.0.7 Information and Instruction, harassment; Workplace Violence and Harassment: Understanding the Law, http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pdf/wpvh_gl.pdf
OPEN THE INTERVIEW
Welcome the individual, introduce yourself. Explain that your role is to investigate and to uphold the union’s policy on workplace harassment.
- If the person you are interviewing is from an equity seeking group, honour their request to have a coworker present as a supporter (supporters must not interfere in the interview process).
- Invite honest and frank conversation.
- Reassure the interviewee by explaining the process of investigation.
- Emphasize the importance of keeping the investigation confidential, and state your commitment to confidentiality.
- Listen to their account of the problem.
- Take notes.
Part 20 of Canada Health and Safety Regulations which applies to federal workers, mandates the employer to:
- develop a violence prevention policy,
- identify factors that contribute to workplace violence,
- assess the potential for violence,
- implement systematic controls,
- review the effectiveness of the measures,
- implement written emergency notification procedures,
- appoint a competent person to investigate cases of violence,
- provide information, instruction and training, and
- maintain signed records of information, instruction and training to each worker.
See also: Canada Labour Code, Part II R.S.C. 1995, c. L-2 Part II, “Occupational Health and Safety” “Duties of Employers” – Section 124, “General duty of employer” Section 125, “Specific duties of employer” Subsection
125(z. 16) Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, SOR/86-304 – Part XX, “Violence Prevention in the
Occupational Health and Safety Act, Occupational Health and Safety Code, 2009, Part 27, Violence Section 389, Hazard assessment; Section 390, policy and procedures; Section 391, Instruction of workers; Section 392, Response to incidents
Workers Compensation Act, Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, B.C. Reg. 296/97
Part 4, General Conditions
Workplace Conduct Section 4.24 Definition; Section 4.25 Prohibition; Section 4.26 Investigation Violence in the Workplace; Section 4.27 Definition; Section 4.28 Risk assessment; Section 4.29 Procedures and policies; Section 4.30 Instruction of workers; Section 4.31 Advice to consult physician
Workplace Safety and Health Act, Workplace Safety and Health Regulation, Man. Reg. 217/2006
Part 9: Working Alone or in Isolation; Section 9.1 Application; Section 9.2 Risk identification; Section 9.3 Safe work procedures
Part 10: Harassment; Section 10.1 Harassment prevention policy; Section 10.2 Required statements; Section 10.3 Posting policy
Part 11: Violence in the Workplace; Section 11.1 Risk identification and assessment; Section 11.2 Duty to inform workers
See also: Manitoba Labour, Guideline for the Prevention of Harassment and Violence in the Workplace
No specific legislation currently exists regarding Workplace Violence; however General Duty obligations exist under Occupational Health & Safety Legislation.
Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of New Brunswick http://www.worksafenb.ca/
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.N.L 1990, c. O-3
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2009, N.L.R. 70/09 Part III, General Duties
Section 22 Violence prevention; Section 23 Procedures and policies; Section 24 Instruction to workers
Occupational Health and Safety Act, Violence in the Workplace Regulations, N.S. Reg. 209/2007
Reference Guide to the Violence in the Workplace Regulations,
Violence in the Workplace Regulations for the Retail Gas Industry
Violence in the Workplace Regulations for the Taxi Industry
Violence in the Workplace Regulations for Convenience and Small Retail Stores
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
As made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act General Regulations, EC180/87
Part 52, Violence in the Workplace; Section 52.1 violence, defined; Section 52.2 Risk assessment of workplace; Section 52.3 Risk identified; Section 52.4 Inform workers of risk; Section 52.5 Consult Physician
Act respecting labour standards, R.S.Q., c. N-1.1 Division V.2, Psychological Harassment
Sections 81.18 to 81.20 Division II.1, Recourse against Psychological Harassment;
Sections 123.6 to 123.16
Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993, R.S.S. 1993, c. O-1.1
Section 14 Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996, R.S.S., c. O-1, r. 1
Part III, General Duties Section 36, Harassment Section 37, Violence
MAKING USE OF HEALTH & SAFETY LEGISLATION
A few jurisdictions still do not have explicit legislation dealing with violence in the workplace, but all employers are responsible for taking every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of the worker. That’s because there is always a “general duty provision” in any health and safety legislation.
More information on the general duty of the employer is available in OSH Answers at www.ccohs.ca. OSH Answers is a service of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. CCOHS offers a comprehensive and easy-to-search compilation of the full text of Canadian health, safety and environmental legislation and critical guidelines and codes of practice from all jurisdictions. All the legislation is compiled into one convenient location and is regularly updated with new amendments highlighted.
On the CCOHS website, you’ll find:
- OH&S Legislation – Due Diligence. Workplace representatives can and should always use the general duty provision. We can and must always demand our employers take whatever measures are necessary to stop harassment and violence before anyone gets harmed.
- An overview of more general duties. See the reference document Occupational Health and Safety Responsibilities of Directors, Owners, Employers, Managers and Supervisors.
- A quick reference document on Working Alone legislation, which also covers acts of violence.
- Information on how the health and safety laws are enforced (info on Canadian Governmental Occupational Health and Safety Departments www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/information/govt.html).
- At OSH Answers on Violence in the Workplace you can also find:
- Bullying in the Workplace
- Violence in the Workplace
- Violence in the Workplace – Negative Interactions
- Violence in the Workplace – Parking Lot Safety
- Violence in the Workplace – Warning Signs
- Violence in the Workplace – Working Late