Originally published in Blakes Bulletin on Labour &
Employment, April 2009
On April 20, 2009, the Ontario government introduced Bill 168,
the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and
Harassment in the Workplace), 2009. This legislation, if
passed, will make a number of significant amendments to the
Occupational Health and Safety Act (the OHSA) in an effort
to safeguard workers from workplace violence and harassment.
Specifically, Bill 168 designates workplace violence and harassment
as occupational health and safety hazards and establishes new
obligations for employers with respect to workplace violence and
harassment. Before Bill 168 becomes law, it must pass two more
readings and receive royal assent.
The highlights of Bill 168 are as follows:
New definitions. New definitions of workplace
harassment and workplace violence are added to the OHSA.
Workplace policies. Employers must prepare
policies to address workplace violence and harassment. These
policies must be reviewed, at minimum, on an annual basis.
Employers must provide information and training about the content
of these policies. For employers with more than five employees,
these policies must be in writing and posted in a conspicuous
location in the workplace.
Workplace programs. Employers must develop and
maintain programs to implement their workplace violence and
harassment policies. These programs must include procedures for
workers to report incidents of harassment or violence and must set
out how the employer will investigate such incidents. Workplace
violence programs must also include procedures to control the risk
of workplace violence and to summon assistance when required.
Employers must provide training about the content of these
Violence assessments. Employers must assess
the risk of workplace violence in their workplaces with regard to
the nature of the workplace, the type of work and the conditions of
work. The assessment must consider the circumstances that are
specific to the workplace as well as those that are common to
similar workplaces. The employer must provide the results of the
assessment and a copy of the assessment to the workplace health and
safety committee or representative. Following the initial risk
assessment, employers must reassess the risk of workplace violence
as often as necessary to ensure that workers remain protected.
Addressing domestic violence at work.
Employers must take every precaution reasonable in the
circumstances to protect workers from domestic violence. This
obligation arises when the employer becomes aware, or ought
reasonably to be aware, that domestic violence may occur in the
workplace and would likely expose workers to physical injury.
Duties of employers and supervisors. The
duties of employers and supervisors currently set out in the OHSA
apply with respect to workplace violence.
Information about violent individuals.
Employers and supervisors must provide information, including
personal information, to workers about a person with a history of
violent behaviour. This duty applies where a worker can be expected
to encounter that person in the course of his or her work and the
risk of workplace violence is likely to expose the worker to
Right to refuse work. Workers can refuse to
work where they have reason to believe that workplace violence will
likely put them into danger.
Reporting obligations. Employers have specific
reporting obligations when a worker is disabled from performing his
regular work or requires medical attention as a result of workplace
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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