Thursday, June 3, 2010

Precis of Bill 168

From the desk of Brian Simpson, Keyframe Digital Animation

Bill 168 is Ontario Provincial Legislation adding further mandatory duties on Employers within the Occupational Health and Safety Act to cover violence and harassment in the workplace.

This act will significantly impact all workplaces, employing five or more employees, within the province of Ontario. It is apparent that the Provincial Government is quite serious in ensuring compliance with the bill, as it has hired some 200 inspectors to audit workplaces and enforce the act.

Effective June 15, 2010, all Employers must

- prepare policies with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment; and post such policies in conspicuous locations within the workplace.

- in addition to the policies, the employer shall assess risks in the workplace and then develop and maintain programs to implement each of the policies with respect to workplace violence and harassment, which shall then be fully communicated to employees.

- once implemented, the Employer shall monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the policy and the programs on a regular basis.

As a result, Employers must develop procedures to investigate and resolve complaints of violence and harassment; and to develop safety plans in the event of occurrence.

Please note that there is a further requirement under the act which makes the Employer responsible in to ensure safety of employees and workers with respect to domestic violence; if an employer becomes aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that domestic violence would likely expose a worker physical injury in the workplace, the employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker (safety plan)

It is important that Employers recognize that it should formally go through all the steps as indicated in the legislation, and ensure that it has a paper trail of its efforts.

For further information on the Bill and recommendations for its implementation, it is recommended consulting the information at the following links

Employers now have only a short period of time to get ready for the new Workplace Violence Prevention law. Bill 168, an Act to amend the OHSA to prevent and manage workplace violence and harassment comes into effect on June 15, 2010 and is enforceable as of that date. The amendments explicitly set out a duty for every Ontario employer to take specific steps to proactively prevent and manage workplace violence. Legal compliance starts with a risk assessment.
The tragedies of the Lori Dupont workplace murder in Windsor and the Pierre Lebrun shootings in Ottawa highlight the seriousness of workplace violence.
Bill 168 contains definitions for workplace violence and workplace harassment. Workplace violence means the exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker. It also includes an attempt to exercise physical force or a statement or behaviour that a worker could reasonably interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker in a workplace. Workplace harassment means engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Risk Assessment
Employers must conduct a risk assessment of workplace violence that may arise from the nature of the workplace, type of work or conditions of work. For example, the activities workers perform, whether workers are required to travel, work alone or work late at night as well as access security and surveillance systems. The risk assessment must also consider circumstances common to similar workplaces – the activities or work conditions that certain sectors have in common and circumstances specific to the workplace such as layout and design and geographic location. If an employer has multiple work locations, each location should be assessed for its own unique risks of workplace violence in addition to the common risks.
Employers must prepare, and review at least annually, a policy with respect to workplace violence and harassment. The policy is required regardless of the size of the workplace or the number of workers. If more than five workers are regularly employed at a workplace, the policy must be in writing and posted in the workplace. Employers may prepare separate policies on workplace violence and workplace harassment or they may combine their workplace violence policy with an existing workplace harassment policy.

The employer must also develop a program to implement the workplace violence and workplace harassment policy. The program must include measures and procedures to control the risks identified in the workplace violence risk assessment; measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace violence and harassment to the employer, for summoning immediate assistance when workplace violence or harassment occurs or is likely to occur; and identify how the employer will investigate and deal with incidents or complaints of workplace violence and harassment. The Bill also places a duty on an employer to take every reasonable precaution for the protection of a worker, if the employer knows or ought to reasonably know that domestic violence may occur in the workplace and likely expose a worker to physical injury.

The employer must also provide information and instruction to its workers on its workplace violence and harassment policy and program. In particular, the employer will be required to disclose to its workers the risk of violence from a person with a history of violent behaviour who they may encounter in the course of work and if the risk of workplace violence is likely to expose the worker to physical injury.

There are also minor amendments to the work refusal provisions contained in section 43 of the Act and the incident reporting provisions contained in section 52(1) of the Act. The Ministry of Labour recently released a guidance document titled ‘Workplace Violence and Harassment: Understanding the Law’.

The Ministry of Labour is committed to enforcing Bill 168. Employers who have not completed their Risk Assessment, policy, program and training by June 15, 2010 are at risk of enforcement actions including orders and prosecutions. Directors and officers must ensure their organizations are in full compliance or risk personal liability. Corporations may be fined up to $500,000.00 and individuals may be fined up to $25,000.00 or jailed for 12 months or both. Compliance with Bill 168 is not only the law, it is also the right thing to prevent workplace viol

No comments:

Post a Comment