In Canada, Workplace Violence is defined by the Occupation Health and Safety Act 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." This can also include any attempt of physical violence, or behaviors that could be interpreted as such. Because it is the responsibility of every employer to take reasonable precautions in order to protect the health and safety of their employees, every workplace, regardless of number of employees is required to have a violence prevention program in place. In workplaces with more than six workers, it is required to have the violence prevention policy posted in a highly visible area. It is important for employers to check the specific requirements for their province or state, as while the intent of preventing workplace violence may be the same, the requirements for compliance may differ.
The first step in creating a comprehensive violence prevention program is to assess the risks of your workplace. This can include several factors. Consider the physical aspects of your workplace, including geographic location - whether you are in a building, vehicle or outdoors. Next, assess the type of work done including duties and activities performed by employees, sector of work and interaction with the public. Take into account factors such as the handling of cash or transport of valuable merchandise. Lastly, consider the conditions of your workplace, including hours worked, the surrounding neighbourhood or the number of other workers around at a given time, if any.
The next step in the creation of a violence prevention program is to develop measures and procedures to help minimize your identified risks. The Occupations Health & Safety Act outlines the following helpful examples as measures that may be used to control some common risks:
Once you have identified your risks and chosen the appropriate measures and procedures to minimize them, the next step is the violence prevention policy implementation. Your violence prevention program must include a procedure for getting employees immediate access to assistance if a problem arises, a means for employees to report any incidents and a procedure that will be followed to investigate and deal with any reported incidents or complaints. It is important to clearly outline the roles and responsibilities for all involved parties, including the employer, supervisor and worker.
Communication of the violence prevention program to employees is essential. In order for a successful violence prevention policy implementation, information must be readily available and relayed to existing employees on a regular basis, particularly if circumstances of their job or of the workplace should change. The employer is required to provide information on the violence prevention policy to newly hired employees and should be reviewed and adapted if necessary to anyone who changes positions. Special training sessions might be required for supervisors responsible for enforcing the program and their specific duties. It should be noted, that employers must advise workers and provide the appropriate information if expected to encounter another employee with a history of violent behaviour.
It is recommended that a violence prevention program be reassessed annually, or if any significant changes have been made to the nature, type or conditions of a workplace.
Return to WHMIS Home