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Listen to your employees and reduce your workload!

ear-listen-to-your-employeesMy training workshops are often an opportunity for managers to learn about what’s happening on the “floor” of the workplace. I experienced this recently while conducting a training session designed to inform workers of their rights and obligations under their employer’s harassment and violence policy.

I am happy to share this learning experience with you but, first, a little background on the law. The Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) requires that when conducting a workplace violence risk assessment you take into account both the:

  • Nature of your workplace and;
  • Type of work you performed.

You are also required to consider circumstances:

  • that are common in similar workplaces to yours i.e., social workers in similar agencies have been threatened or have experienced violent clients;
  • that are specific to your workplace i.e., our social workers have not experienced threats or actual violence.

I have discovered through my work in this area that most clients benefit from one simple direction—talk to your employees!

Here’s a real life example to illustrate the need to effectively communicate with your workers:

My client had performed their violence risk assessment and written a workplace violence policy. I was now facilitating training workshops in order to provide “information and instruction” to the workers as required by the OHSA. s. 32.0.5 (2)

During a workshop, a worker spoke up and asked, “What is the procedure when I encounter an irate client in the field? I don’t see that in here anywhere.”

Clearly, this hazard had been overlooked during the initial risk assessment. The assessors focused too much on “circumstances specific to their workplace.” They should have focused equally on, “circumstances specific to similar workplaces.” No worries, the legal requirements are designed to take these types of situations into consideration.

The above example illustrates why reassessment is so important. The OHSA is very clear on this point— reassessment of risk must be ongoing.

The OHSA requires that the risk of workplace violence be reassessed, “as often as is necessary . . . to continue to protect workers from workplace violence”  S. 32.0.1 (4).

Don’t have the time?

  • Delegate this responsibility to all workers.
  • Encourage a workplace culture where there exists an ongoing dialogue about workplace harassment and violence issues.
  • Encourage your workers to share their concerns with management.

And, oh, one more piece of advice when talking to your employees—listen to what they have to say and utilize this information in the reassessment process.

Andrew Lawson
Learn Don’t Litigate

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Andrew Lawson

Trainer and advisor at Learn Don't Litigate
Andrew Lawson is a human rights and health and safety trainer and advisor, currently consulting to both the federal and Ontario governments. Since 1996, he has conducted extensive legal research in the areas of human rights and occupational health and safety law. He has worked in the people management business for over 25 years. Read more
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