What Employers Need to Know
What is Bill 168?
On June 15th, 2010 the province of Ontario enacted Bill 168, an amendment to the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA), prescribing strict new mandatory standards aimed at reducing the risk of violence and harassment in the workplace. The new law applies to all Ontario workplaces with 5 or more employees that fall under the jurisdiction of the OHSA.
Bill 168 is the most comprehensive, far-reaching workplace violence legislation in Canada. Failure to comply with the provisions of the new law can lead to serious financial and reputational harm, not just for organizations but also for Company Officers, Directors and line management staff.
How are Violence and Harassment in the Workplace Defined?
The definition of workplace violence under Bill 168 is broader than that used in many other contexts. It extends beyond overt acts of violence to incorporate some types of threat. Similarly, the definition of workplace harassment moves beyond the existing Human Rights Code to incorporate bullying or psychological harassment, threats or intimidation, and harassment based on any protected ground under human rights law.
Why is Workplace Violence Prevention Important?
Statistics suggest that 1 in 5 violent incidents in Canada occurs at work; 20 percent of workplace violence incidents result in physical injury; and 25% of victims find it harder to carry out day-to-day work activities following an incident. Aside from the harm to employees, it is not uncommon for organizations to be held negligent under the law following an incident of workplace violence.
Who is at Risk From Workplace Violence?
Certain types of work or conditions of work can place workers at greater risk of violence . Examples of high risk work sectors identified by Ontario's Ministry of Labour include; Healthcare; Retail; Hospitality; Education; Transportation; Social Services; and Security. The National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH) has identified high risk work factors including; direct contact with clients; handling cash; working alone; transporting people/goods; and working with unstable/volatile people.
What Specific Steps Need to be Taken to Comply with Bill 168?
Bill 168 identifies the following key steps that must be taken by Ontario employers: