Employers now only have a short period of time to get ready for
the new Workplace Violence Prevention law. Bill 168, an Act to
amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to prevent
and manage workplace violence and harassment comes into effect on
June 15, 2010 and is enforceable as of that date. The amendments
explicitly set out a duty for every Ontario employer to take
specific steps to proactively prevent and manage workplace
violence. Legal compliance starts with a risk assessment.
The tragedies of the Lori Dupont workplace murder in Windsor and
the Pierre Lebrun shootings in Ottawa highlight the seriousness of
Bill 168 contains definitions for workplace violence and
workplace harassment. Workplace violence means the exercise of
physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that
causes or could cause physical injury to the worker. It also
includes an attempt to exercise physical force or a statement or
behaviour that a worker could reasonably interpret as a threat to
exercise physical force against the worker in a workplace.
Workplace harassment means engaging in a course of vexatious
comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or
ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.
Employers must conduct a risk assessment of workplace violence
that may arise from the nature of the workplace, type of work or
conditions of work. For example, the activities workers perform,
whether workers are required to travel, work alone or work late at
night as well as access control and security and surveillance
systems. The risk assessment must also consider circumstances
common to similar workplaces – the activities or work
conditions that certain sectors have in common and circumstances
specific to the workplace such as layout and design and geographic
location. If an employer has multiple work locations, each location
should be assessed for its own unique risks of workplace violence
in addition to the common risks.
Employers must prepare and review at least annually, a policy
with respect to workplace violence and harassment. The policy is
required regardless of the size of the workplace or the number of
workers. If more than five workers are regularly employed at a
workplace, the policy must be in writing and posted in the
workplace. Employers may prepare separate policies on workplace
violence and workplace harassment or they may combine their
workplace violence policy with an existing workplace harassment
The employer must also develop a program to implement the
workplace violence and workplace harassment policy. The program
must include measures and procedures to control the risks
identified in the workplace violence risk assessment as well as
measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of
workplace violence and harassment to the employer, for summoning
immediate assistance when workplace violence or harassment occurs
or is likely to occur and how the employer will investigate and
deal with incidents or complaints of workplace violence and
harassment. The Bill also places a duty on an employer to take
every reasonable precaution for the protection of a worker, if the
employer knows or ought to reasonably know that domestic violence
may occur in the workplace and likely expose a worker to physical
The employer must also provide information and instruction to
its workers on its workplace violence and harassment policy and
program. In particular, the employer will be required to disclose
to its workers the risk of violence from a person with a history of
violent behaviour who they may encounter in the course of work and
if the risk of workplace violence is likely to expose the worker to
There are also minor amendments to the work refusal provisions
contained in section 43 of the Act and the incident reporting
provisions contained in section 52(1) of the Act. The Ministry of
Labour recently released a guidance document titled "Workplace
Violence and Harassment: Understanding the Law".
The Ministry of Labour is committed to enforcing Bill 168.
Employers who have not completed their Risk Assessment, policy,
program and training by June 15, 2010 are at risk of enforcement
actions including Orders and Prosecutions. Directors and Officers
must ensure their organizations are in full compliance or risk
personal liability. Corporations may be fined up to $500,000 and
individuals may be fined up to $25,000 or jailed for 12 months or
both. Compliance with Bill 168 is not only the law, it is also the
right thing to prevent workplace violence.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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