WSPS Logo
The threat of workplace violence or harassment poisons the work environment. It sabotages productivity and undermines a company's culture. It hurts a business financially because of the costs of violence-related injuries, government fines, disrupted work and decreased productivity. It affects the employer's relationship with its employees and it can damage the company’s reputation with clients as well as its employee retention and recruitment efforts.

Violence & Harassment

Violence and harassment can occur in any work environment. In Ontario, employers are required to have a workplace violence policy and program, as well as a workplace harassment policy and program.

Requirement

Policy

  • Written and posted
  • Signed and reviewed annually
Risk Assessment
  • Reviewed by H&S Rep or JHSC
Program
  • Measures to control risks
  • Reporting and investigation procedure
  • Training
  • Precaution for person with history of violence
  • Precaution for domestic violence in the workplace

See the Resource section for a sample policy and other workplace violence program tools.

Definition

The Occupational Health and Safety Act defines workplace violence as:

  • the exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker;
  • the attempt to exercise physical force against a worker in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker; and
  • a statement or behaviour that a worker could reasonably interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker

Refer to the Resource Investigating Incidents of Workplace Violence and Harassment for additional information on this definition.

Policy

A workplace violence policy states the employer’s commitment to take all reasonable measures to prevent work-related violent incidents. The workplace violence policy should:

  • convey an your commitment to protect your workers from all possible types/sources of workplace violence
  • outline roles and responsibilities of  all workplace parties
  • be dated and signed by the you, the employer (or highest level of management at the workplace)

You must review the workplace violence policy annually and post it in a location that is accessible to employees. Your workplace violence and harassment policies may be rolled into your overall health and safety policy statement.

Work Refusals

Under the OHSA a worker can refuse to work if he or she has reason to believe their safety is at risk due to workplace violence. However, work cannot be refused on the grounds of workplace harassment.

There is a specific procedure that must be followed in a work refusal. It is important that all parties understand and follow this procedure. See Work Refusal Chart.

Program

The workplace violence program must include a risk assessment and measures to prevent or protect employees from violence. As the employer, you must establish a process to report and investigate incidents, including work-related domestic violence. Your workers have to be trained and you must provide information about a person with a violent history.

Risks Assessment

A risk assessment will identify potential sources of violence that can pose a risk to your employees. Circumstances that may increase the risk of violence include:

  • Serving alcohol
  • Working alone
  • Handling cash and valuables
  • Dealing with the public
  • Working with a high risk population
  • Working in a high crime area
  • High-pressure environments
  • Transporting people and goods
  • Mobile workplaces

The OHSA does not specify how to conduct a violence risk assessment. Examples of assessment tools include:

  • Employee surveys
  • Physical site assessments
  • Job hazard analysis

Your risk assessment should consider:

  • The potential for violence and harassment based on the nature of the workplace, the type of work or the work conditions
  • The circumstances of the specific workplace and other similar workplaces
  • The measures and procedures that will control the identified risks

Remember that activities and risk levels may change over time, so be sure to reassess your violence risks as appropriate.

  • As a minimum, you are required to review your risks annually
  • This assessment must be shared with your health and safety representative or the JHSC (for workplaces with 20+ employees)

Refer to the Resource section for sample risk assessment tools.

Measures to Control Risks

With the risk assessment, you will understand how workplace violence can impact your employees. Now it is important to develop the safe work practices to control the risks. For example, you may need a procedure for “Working Alone” or “Robbery Prevention”. If you serve alcohol, ‘Smart Serve’ training and a policy on limiting the number of drinks sold to patrons, would be an example of measures to reduce the risk of alcohol-related violence.

Incident Reporting

Workers should be encouraged to report incidents or threats of violence that they experience or witness so you will have to establish the incident reporting process. It should include:

  • who to report the incident to;
  • how to report the incident;
  • and any documentation that is required.

In a violent situation, workers will need to know how to notify police immediately.

Incident Investigation

You must have a process for investigating workplace violence incidents thus you will need to consider who can conduct the investigation and what information needs to be recorded.

History of a Person with Violent Behaviour

Employers and supervisors must provide workers with information, including personal information, related to a risk of workplace violence from a person with a history of violent behaviour.

However, this duty is limited and applies only when the:

  1. worker can be expected to encounter the violent person in the course of his or her work; and the
  2. risk of workplace violence is likely to expose the worker to physical injury.

Employers and supervisors must not disclose more information than is reasonably necessary for the protection of a worker from physical injury.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is considered to be any form of abuse, mistreatment or neglect that a person experiences from a family member, or from someone with whom they have an intimate relationship.

Domestic violence is considered workplace violence when the abuse happens in the workplace.

Sometimes, an employee may be the victim of non-work-related violence that may create a risk of danger to them or others in the workplace. Your policy should encourage employees to report such violence, or knowledge of the situation, to the owner or supervisor so that necessary preventative measures may be taken to protect all employees.

Training

All workers need to be trained on the workplace violence policy. It is important they know what is expected of them to maintain a respectful workplace. The training should include specific examples of violent behaviour that will not be tolerated in the workplace.

Also, this is the time to inform employees how they can report work-related violence. They need to understand there is a process for summoning assistance, for reporting violent complaints and investigating incidents. You should convey that the process is intended to be objective, timely and confidential but some information may need to be shared with other parties, as appropriate.

Workplace violence training should be a part of the orientation program. It is good practice to provide refresher training (such as a tool-box talk) annually, to reinforce the policy and review key points for reporting and investigating incidents.

Review

The violence program must be reviewed annually, or as often as required to ensure that it is implemented effectively.

Workplace harassment can occur in any environment and in some cases, lead to violence. All employers are required to protect their workers by implementing a workplace harassment policy and program.

Requirement

Policy

  • Written and posted
  • Signed and reviewed annually
Program
  • Program Incident reporting procedure
  • Investigation procedure Training
  • Annual review (with input from the H&S Rep)

See the Resource section for a sample policy and other workplace harassment program tools.

Definition

The Occupational Health and Safety Act defines workplace harassment as:

  • 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, or
  • Workplace sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment means

  • Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome
  • Refer to the Resource Investigating Incidents of Workplace Violence and Harassment for examples of what would be considered workplace harassment and what would not.

Policy

Your workplace harassment policy should:

  • show your commitment to addressing workplace harassment;
  • consider workplace harassment from all sources such as, customers, clients, supervisors, workers, strangers and domestic/intimate partners and also you, the employer
  • outline the roles and responsibilities of the workplace parties in supporting the policy and program;
  • encourage workers to bring forward concerns or information about workplace harassment; and
  • be dated and signed by the highest level of management of the employer or at the workplace as appropriate (examples may include the President, General Manager, and you the Owner/Employer)

You must review the workplace violence policy annually and post it in a location that is accessible to employees. Your workplace violence and harassment policies may be rolled into your overall health and safety policy statement.

Program

The workplace harassment program outlines the process for reporting and investigating incidents and training workers. Under the OHSA, a risk assessment is not required for workplace harassment.

Incident Reporting

Workers are encouraged to report incidents of harassment that they experience or witness so you will have to establish the incident reporting process. It should include:

  • who to report the incident to;
  • how to report the incident;
  • and any documentation that is required.

If the alleged harasser is the employer or supervisor, another contact will have to be available (this could be someone internal or external to the company).

Incident Investigation

When developing your harassment policy it is important to identify the process for investigating complaints so it is clearly understood should an incident arise. The investigator identified in the process needs to be a person who can maintain objectivity no matter who is named in the harassment complaint.

The investigation process must include:

  • identification/selection of a qualified investigator
  • communication with the complainant and the accused
  • timelines for completing the investigation
  • written report of the investigation outcomes, to be shared with the complainant

Training

All workers need to be trained on the harassment policy. It is important they know what is expected of them to maintain a respectful workplace. The training should include specific examples of harassment and behaviour that will not be tolerated in the workplace. The goal is for everyone to recognize inappropriate behaviour and take action to stop it.

Also, this is the time to inform employees how they can report behaviour or language that makes them uncomfortable. They need to understand there is a process for reporting harassment complaints and investigating incidents. You should convey that the process is intended to be objective, timely and confidential but some information may need to be shared with other parties, as appropriate.

Workplace harassment training should be a part of the orientation program. It is good practice to provide refresher training (such as a tool-box talk) annually, to reinforce the policy and review key points for reporting and investigating incidents.

Employee Violence Risk Assessment Questionnaire

Employee Violence Risk Assessment Questionnaire

A questionnaire employers can provide to workers to help assess violence risk. Employers are encouraged to use, reproduce, or customize this document / template to meet their health and safety requirements.
140 KB PDF
Harassment Policy

Harassment Policy

A sample harassment policy which can be used as a template by employers. Employers are encouraged to use, reproduce, or customize this document / template to meet their health and safety requirements.
91 KB PDF
Violence & Harassment Reporting Form

Violence & Harassment Reporting Form

A reporting form employers can utilize to capture details of an incident including corrective and preventative actions. Employers are encouraged to use, reproduce, or customize this document / template to meet their health and safety requirements.
132 KB PDF
Violence & Harassment Reporting Procedure

Violence & Harassment Reporting Procedure

A sample procedure for reporting and investigating workplace violence or harassment incidents.
90 KB PDF
Workplace Harassment: Employer To Do List

Workplace Harassment: Employer To Do List

The Occupational Health & Safety Act now sets out expanded rights and obligations to eliminate harassment in the workplace. This tool is designed to help employers meet their responsibilities.

106 KB PDF
Workplace Harassment: Tips for Employers

Workplace Harassment: Tips for Employers

Useful tips for employers to help with the workplace harassment complaint investigation process.

93 KB PDF
Workplace Violence Hazards Inspection Form

Workplace Violence Hazards Inspection Form

A tool to use in assessing violence hazards in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to use, reproduce, or customize this document / template to meet their health and safety requirements.
45 KB pdf
Workplace Violence Policy

Workplace Violence Policy

A sample violence policy which can be used as a template by employers. Employers are encouraged to use, reproduce, or customize this document / template to meet their health and safety requirements.
 
80 KB PDF
Violence in the Workplace: Awareness

Violence in the Workplace: Awareness

Workplace violence is a serious issue that affects all business sectors and occupations and the safety and security of every employee and employer. This course is offered FREE of charge by CCOHS to promote the awareness of this very important issue, and as a precursor to the other Workplace Violence e-courses: Recognize the Risk and Take Action, and Establish a Prevention Program.
View Details 
$0.00