As many of our clients are discovering, offices and a host of other workplaces in the Province of Ontario, Canada are presenting them with new legal obligations to protect their employees from Workplace Violence and Harassment. The Ontario Ministry of Labour Health and Safety inspectors enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This Act is to facilitate a strong Internal Responsibility System (IRS) in your workplace.
Most immediately, companies with operations in Ontario, Canada need to be aware of these requirements:
- An employer MUST assess the risk of workplace violence and present a full plan to the joint health and safety committee or to a health and safety representative [OHSA s. 32.0.3]
- The risk must be reassessed as often as is necessary to protect workers from potential workplace violence [OHSA s. 32.0.3(4)]
- The law requires that all of your workplaces be assessed, including offices, shops, site, and even any mobile staff (bus drivers, truck drivers, delivery personnel, outside sales, etc.)
The process is very detailed and employers must consider:
- The Nature of the Workplace
- The Type of Work
- Conditions of work
Apart from a full physical security review of corporate facilities and work spaces, employers are encouraged to engage staff at all levels within the organization, such as front-line staff, supervisors, union officials and more. Depending on the outcome of initial assessments, further special assessments and documentation may be required under this legislation. The Act identifies certain work and workplaces as being associated with “higher risk of violence: such as:
- Handling cash
- Transporting People and Goods
- Working Late Nights
- Public or Community Contact
- Isolated Workplaces
- Workplaces Located in Areas Found to Have High Crime Rates
These workplace violence prevention assessments and programs are obviously sensitive in nature and could expose your company to legal risks, if performed by in-house staff. These programs also require a very seasoned security professional that can work in conjunction with your local Health and Safety staff and committee to collaborate effectively.
Premier Risk Solutions, LLC has been active in assisting our clients to comply with the provisions of the Ontario Workplace Violence and Harassment law. PRS is uniquely qualified to assist these clients as I personally understand the United States practices firms have in place currently. As I previously lived in Canada and obtained Canadian citizenship (dual national) while living there,
I understand the inclusive process that should be used to engage local staff. As we all know, many times a US approach to Canadian operations is not always best and we need to be sensitive to that fact. Just ask US companies that moved into Canada, only to close within 12 months because of a poor understanding of the market and the culture of our northern neighbors.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a small team of Canadian professionals to assess an entire provincial worker’s compensation system with numerous far-flung offices and a variety of work spaces across the vast province. At times these offices and their staff faced significant threats of violence, and at times physical assault due to denied claims. I recall assessing one office when a call was received and their client stated he was on his way with a firearm. Fortunately, we could get the office into lock-down and the local police department was only one block away. This irate man did come to the worker’s compensation office (minus any firearm), and was promptly arrested for these uttered threats.
If you have operations in the Province of Ontario, please contact me to see how PRS can assist you with these important legal requirements.
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