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Workplace violence in self-defence: What do you think?

Harassment and violence training are underway in several workplaces in Ontario. Employers are in the process of providing appropriate information and instruction to workers on the contents of their workplace harassment and violence policies and program, as required by the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. In addition,

  • Workers may need to be trained to recognize and respond to harassment/violence or trained in specialized techniques to deal with harassment/violence.
  • Supervisors may need additional information or instruction, especially if they are going to follow up on reported incidents or complaints of workplace harassment/violence.
  • Employers, supervisors and unions also need to be aware of their responsibilities to prevent and address harassment/violence prohibited under Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

During one of these recent training sessions on workplace harassment and violence a worker asked the following question: “If another worker attacks me at work, I’m going to protect myself. Does this law [the Occupational Health and Safety Act] say I can’t do that?”

What do you think?

Your opinions and comments will be useful to my follow up blog post on the issue of workplace violence in self-defence.

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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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4 thoughts on “Workplace violence in self-defence: What do you think?
  • Adam Gorley says:

    I think that line is the key. Obviously, no workplace or law should condone violence in retaliation, but if someone attacks me at my workplace, and I don’t have the chance to run or avoid the attack, and I struggle with the person and maybe punch or kick him, I wouldn’t consider that retaliation. That’s self-defence and is perfectly defensible in my opinion.

    I don’t think the law should impel victims of attacks to just stand there and take a beating.

  • Andrew says:

    Sujata, you ask a very important question. I think there is a line between protecting yourself and retaliating. It may come down to what is reasonable in the circumstances.

  • Sujata says:

    What about violence in self-defence? Doesn’t one have to protect oneself from immediate danger?

  • Andrew says:

    Any kind of violence is prohibited isn’t it? Calling the police may be more appropriate than retaliating. What do other people think?