Workplace Violence: 5 Steps to Compliance with Bill 168

While you can’t do everything right, you can do everything possible to prevent workplace violence.

Posted by Joe Gerard in on May 3rd, 2011

It’s been almost a year since Bill 168, Preventing Workplace Violence and Harassment, became law, but many Ontario employers are still struggling with compliance. Bogged down by lengthy and expensive processes of risk assessment, staff training and implementation, most employers are still not compliant, says Stephen Bird of Bird Richard, a law firm specializing in employment and labour law.

Yesterday we examined the steps you can take to do your own initial risk assessment. Today we include risk assessment as part of the five-step process to compliance with the regulations.

It’s an ongoing process, says Bird, but the consequences of failure to comply, should something unthinkable happen in your workplace, are dire. “Senior executives can go to prison for a long time if they are not taking reasonable precautions. Due diligence is everything,” he says.

The road to compliance

If you can be seen to have taken every reasonable precaution to prevent workplace violence, you’ll have a valid defense if something happens. Bird outlines five steps that every employer should take:

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  1. Risk Assessment – Have a qualified external party come in and assess the risks that your employees could potentially face in the workplace. (This applies only to violence, as there is no requirement to assess for harassment risk.) The assessor should ask questions about every aspect of your business. What type of people do you hire? Do you have a history of scuffles on the work floor; do the employees have a history of being locked up for drunk and disorderly on the weekend; what do you know about your work force? What do you know about your area, your product and the customers you serve?
  2. Training – Once you’ve identified the risks, figure out what employees need to know and what they should do in every situation. Identify a training plan and ensure everyone in the organization is trained. In some organizations it’s too expensive to have someone from outside train all staff. Unless you have the resources or experience in training, Bird suggests having someone come in to “train the trainer(s)” who can then train the rest of your staff.
  3. Policies and Procedures – Develop and document policies and procedures. Policies are the easiest part of compliance with Bill 168, says Bird. It’s the procedures that take the time and effort. Employees need to know what to do in every situation. And they need to know the procedures before something happens. They will not have time to look up what to do when faced with a violent situation.
  4. Research - Look at what everyone else in your industry is doing. Research best practices for your industry. Share information regularly with others in your field. Join and participate in organizations. Discuss issues with your network and find out how they are dealing with compliance. Share your concerns, methods and solutions and learn from those of others. The one-year point is June 2011. You must get best practices in place by then, advises Bird.
  5. Updates - You are required by law to update your policies every year. You’ll need to update your crime statistics, training efforts, any employee job changes, new or changed risks and training. What are you doing about it? “From my observations, the answer is very little,” says Bird.

Reasonable effort is key

“The long and short of it is that you can’t do everything right,” says Bird. “You have to do the best you can based on the risks you can identify.” As long as you can prove you took every reasonable effort to prevent workplace harassment and violence, including following the steps above, you’ll have a defense should you ever need one.

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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