Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bill 168 Violence and Harassment in the Workplace

Originally published in HazMat Magazine - Summer 2010

In a development that should be of interested to readers in all provinces, Ontario is playing catch0-up with the other provinces and jurisdictions such as the federal sphere (federal legislation governs transportation companies, banks, airlines and other federal undertakings), British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia who have all directly addressed that problem of workplace violence as a health and safety issue for years.

Violence and harassment issues in the workplace and how we handle these matters have been drastically changed by Bill 168 as of December 15, 2009 when this new legislation received Royal Accent. Workplaces across Ontario are required to develop measures to address violence and harassment in the workplace, develop policies, procedures, conduct risk assessments of their organization, and put programs and training in place for their staff.

Statistics from the Ministry of Labour, Statistics Canada and WSIB directly identify the need for Ontario to address workplace violence and harassment issues:
  • In 2009 the Ministry of Labour (MOL)issued 351 fines related to harassment in the workplace;
  • The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) identified in 2007 that there were 2,150 lost time claims related to assaults, violent acts, harassment and acts of war or terrorism in Ontario
  • Individuals who have been bullied at work waste 10-52% of their time on the job – lost time ratio.
  • Statistics Canada, 2007 identified from the General Social Survey, 2004 that 17% (356,000 incidents) of all self-reported incidents of violent victimization, including sexual assault, robbery and physical assault happen in the workplace.
  • Organizations have identified an increase of 66% in aggressive acts within their workplaces over the past 5 years.
Effective June 15, 2010 organizations in Ontario must have met the new guidelines and legal requirements as set out in the amendment to the Health and Safety Act in addition to their obligations under the existing legislation of the Human Rights Act. This legislative act will remain in force addressing a more victim-focused complaints process than the new occupational health and safety legislation.

This amendment now places an explicit duty on employers to protect employees from workplace violence and harassment and places a positive obligation to take precautionary measures should violence appear likely to occur within the workplace. All employers must have policies and procedures in place on workplace violence, including harassment and bullying.

Following are steps employers must take to meet compliance by the June 15th deadline:

Conduct a Risk Assessment:
Employers must complete an evaluation of their operations to ensure that the vulnerabilities to violence are identified and addressed; update and/or develop policies to control the risks identified and communicate the results of the assessment to the joint health and safety committee, a health and safety representative or to the workers where no committee or representative exists.

Make Necessary Changes to the Workplace:Using the information gathered in the risk assessment, employers must make the necessary changes to reduce the vulnerability to violence in the workplace

Review Policies with respect to Workplace Violence & Harassment: Employers must ensure that policies are in place to address findings of the risk assessment and to address the procedure for the reporting and investigating workplace violence and harassment complaints. Employers must post these policies (in the case of employers with more than five employees) and review them on an annual basis.

Develop and Maintain Programs to Implement those Policies:
Develop a program for the implementation and maintenance of workplace violence and harassment policies. Employers must include in the program as outlined in the act, measures and procedures that:

  • to control the risks identified in the assessment required under subsection 32.0.3 (1) as likely to expose a worker to physical injury;
  • for summoning immediate assistance when workplace violence occurs or is likely to occur;
  • for workers to report incidents of workplace violence to the employer or supervisor;
  • set out how the employer will investigate and deal with incidents or complaints of workplace violence; and
  • include any prescribed elements.
Train Employees
Employers must provide information and instruction to their employees on the contents of the policies and programs; how to report violence and/or harassment, domestic violence or bullying in the workplace.

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