Changes to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) – effective June 15, 2010 – strengthen protections for workers from workplace violence and address workplace harassment. They define workplace violence and harassment and describe employer duties, and will apply to all workplaces covered by the OHSA.
Workplace violence means:
Workplace harassment means:
Workplace harassment may include bullying, intimidating or offensive jokes or innuendos, displaying or circulating offensive pictures or materials, or offensive or intimidating phone calls.
Workplace violence programs must include measures and procedures for:
Both workplace violence and workplace harassment programs must include measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace violence/harassment and set out how the employer will investigate and deal with incidents or complaints.
Employers must proactively assess the risks of workplace violence that may arise from the nature of the workplace, the type of work or the conditions of work. Measures and procedures to control these risks must be included in the workplace violence program.
Employers who are aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that domestic violence may occur in the workplace must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect a worker at risk of physical injury.
Employers and supervisors must provide information to a worker about a risk of workplace violence from a person with a history of violent behaviour if the worker can expect to encounter that person in the course of work, and if the worker may be at risk of physical injury. Personal information may be disclosed, but only what is reasonably necessary to protect the worker from physical injury.
Workers have the right to refuse work if they have a reason to believe they are in danger from workplace violence. Reprisals by the employer continue to be prohibited. Certain workers continue to have only a limited right to refuse.
Ministry of Labour health and safety inspectors will enforce the new OHSA provisions for workplace violence and workplace harassment and determine if employers are complying with their new duties. Employers and workers should always contact police first in emergency situations, if threats or actual violence occurs at a workplace.
Resource material is being developed by the occupational health and safety system partners – Health and Safety Associations (HSAs), the Ministry of Labour and the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) – to help employers assess workplace violence risks and develop workplace violence and workplace harassment policies and programs.
A new compliance guideline – Workplace Violence and Harassment: Understanding the Law – will help workplace parties comply with the changes to the OHSA.
New resources developed by the Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario (OHSCO): Developing Workplace Violence and Harassment Policies and Programs: What Employers Need to Know and A Toolbox.
A revised Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act will include a section on workplace violence and workplace harassment. (Available summer, 2010)
Ontario’s HSAs are posting resources and training opportunities about workplace violence and workplace harassment on their websites.
Safe workplaces mean productive workplaces.