Ontario employers take heed, the six-month transition period provided by the government before amendments to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (Bill 168) come into force allow you time to prepare and be in compliance. This means implementing the new rules and measures required by law on or before June 15, 2010.
The process for implementing these new rules is time consuming and very complex. You may have to consult with lawyers, experts or some other health and safety professional or association. In short: waiting until the last minute is not a very good idea.
Here are some of the steps employers need to consider and start working on now:
- As with most other risks, prevention of workplace violence and harassment begins with planning. Form a team of key employees to develop, review and implement a violence prevention plan and policies dealing with violence and harassment, preventive measures, measures to report, investigate and respond to incidents, support employees, and security measures, among others. This same team should also be available to deal with incidents that may arise in the future.
- Risk assessment: assess the potential for workplace violence and harassment in your work environment. Identifying problem situations and risk factors—circumstances that may heighten the risk of violence—can involve a particular event or employee, or the workplace as a whole.
- As appropriate, develop and execute a plan to address the various issues that result from the risk assessment process. Don’t hesitate or find excuses not to make the necessary changes to control or prevent violent or harassing incidents.
- Re-evaluate, rethink and revise policies and practices. Draft or review existing policies and procedures to ensure that they effectively address workplace violence and harassment as required by law. Here an employer sets the standard for acceptable workplace behaviour and preventive measures. For example, you could review your recruiting and hiring practices by including preventive measures such as pre-employment screening. Identifying and screening out potentially violent people before hiring is a means of preventing workplace violence. Pre-employment screening practices must, however, be consistent with privacy protections and anti-discrimination rules under human rights law.
- Awareness and training: one of the most critical components of an employer’s prevention program is training for employees and supervisors. This includes special training for employees who would be involved in responding to an incident of workplace violence or harassment. All employees should know how to recognize and report violent or harassing incidents, intimidating, threatening and disruptive behaviour, as well as ways of preventing or defusing volatile situations or aggressive behaviour. It is important that supervisory training include basic leadership skills such as setting clear standards, addressing employee problems promptly, and using the probationary period, performance counselling, discipline and other management tools consistently and conscientiously.
Employers must clearly communicate and instruct their employees on the law and their violence prevention plan and policies on or before June 15, 2010.
These are only a few of the things you need to think about and prepare. You have a lot of work ahead of you to ensure that you are compliant with the law at the appropriate time. Employers who fail to do so will find themselves in non-compliance with the Act and may face orders, as well as significant fines and penalties.
Have you started to look at these steps? And if you have, which one are you having most trouble with?
Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor