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Transition period for Bill 168 means: time to act

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?

Yosie Saint-Cyr
Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor

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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 18 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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3 thoughts on “Transition period for Bill 168 means: time to act
  • […] the introduction of Bill 168 in Canada, the issue of workplace safety regarding violence has been a hot topic as of late. The incident between Arenas and Crittenton and the manner in which the NBA dealt with it is a good […]

  • Thanks Susan for the comment and “a propos questions”. However, the reponses provided are general in nature.

    The violence and harassment prevention rules found in OHSA seem to be broad enough to include employers, customers, patients, co-workers, visitors, and domestic partners as long as the potential for violent or harassing behaviours or incidents are encountered at the workplace or in a workplace context.

    As for the domestic violence question, I would suggest you read the blog post titled Addressing domestic violence in the workplace – some insights and the HRID article it links to. It was published on January 11, 2010.

    The Act places responsibilities not just on employers but on employees and supervisors, that is what we call the Internal Responsibility System (IRS). The IRS gives everyone within a company direct responsibility for health and safety as an essential part of his or her job. In the Act, a supervisor means a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over workers (one or more). Supervisors have specific duties, responsibilities and potential liabilities under OHSA.

  • Susan Trevers says:

    (1)The Act does not list the common sources/perpetrators of workplace violence. Is it assumed that employer’s responsibility extends to preventing violence from customers too or just from their own employees?

    (2)How far-reaching is the “domestic violence” part? If an employee comes to work with a black eye, do I need to investigate if the cause was domestic violence and take precautionary measures? What if the employee considered this a privacy violation by the supervisor?

    (3)The Act places responsibility on the employer. In big companies, HR Policies are not set by local supervisors but they come from National or International Headquarters.
    If I was a supervisor in Ontario, would I be held personally accountable if my employer was found not in compliance with the Act?