On June 15th, employers in
Ontario have another compliance requirement. Bill 168
amends the current Occupational Health and Safety Act
(OHSA) to explicitly include workplace violence and
describes employer duties.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour provides some support
and guidance on their
website, but many of the provisions already
existed under the general obligation of employers to
provide for the safety of workers and the right of
workers to refuse unsafe work. These are common in
most Canadian jurisdictions. So what is new about the
Bill 168 provisions?
In Ontario two high profile workplace incidents
highlighted the danger to workers in the workplace
from violence. The inquest recommendations following
the murder of Lori Dupont in the Hotel Dieu Hospital
in Windsor in 2005 and the murderous rampage by OC
Transpo employee Pierre Lebrun in 1999 in Ottawa led directly to
Bill 168ís amendments to the existing regulations.
Employers must perform a hazard assessment, similar to
the hazard assessment they would undertake for
hazardous products under WHMIS, or hazardous
procedures like working in confined spaces. The
Ďhazardsí dealt with by Bill 168 are workplace
violence or harassment by other employees, clients or
the public. Policies and procedures must be put into
place to deal with the hazards identified. Just like
any other workplace hazard the onus is on the
employer, working with the Joint Health and Safety
Committee, to identify potential hazards and consider
engineering controls, administrative controls or
issuing personal protective equipment. This could be
as simple as ensuring the door locks are adequate, or
as complicated as changing work shifts so vulnerable
employees work in teams.
Bill 168 explicitly requires employers to protect
workers in cases of Ďdomesticí violence as well. If
the employer is aware of a domestic violence situation
that could occur in the workplace, then reasonable
precautions to protect the worker must be taken.
Bill 168 also requires that the employer inform the
workers of potential hazards including another
personís history of violence. For example, a nurse or
personal care worker must be informed of a patient who
has a history of violence despite the privacy
protections usually granted for such records.
With all compliance matters itís crucial to document
the process for any Ministry of Labour inspection that
may occur or for an investigation after an incident.
Written policies and procedures, records of training
and evidence that the policies were enforced must
be kept. Any incident of workplace violence or
harassment must be investigated by a designated person
and the steps taken must be documented fully.