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New Legislation Tackles Workplace Violence and Harassment

Bill 168, an Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act with respect to violence and harassment in the workplace and other matters, will significantly impact workplaces in the province of Ontario.

The amendments to the Act will come into force on June 15, 2010, at which time, workplaces in Ontario where more than  five workers are regularly employed will be required to have the necessary policies, programs, measures and procedures in place.

Bill 168 overview

Bill 168 definitions of workplace violence and harassment

Bill 168 requirements for domestic violence that comes into the workplace

Just how widespread is workplace violence?

Who's at risk?

What's the impact of workplace violence?

What are the types of workplace violence and harassment?

How can I get a copy of Bill 168?

How OSSA can help


New! Downloadable Resources Available:

Ontario Ministry of Labour Guidelines - The MOL has issued a set of new guidelines that seek to make the amendments under Bill 168 clearer to employers. The guidelines offer up definitions of key terms and concepts, key requirements of employers and the specific sections that govern them, and templates that firms could use to get their workplace violence prevention programs off the ground.

Click here to access the guidelines.

OHSCO: What Employers Need to Know - This free 35-page downloadable resource is available for employers.  Designed for general use, this document and the accompanying Toolbox were developed to help Ontario company's meet their requirements under the Act.  It outlines recommended approaches in assessing the risk of workplace violence, recognizing domestic violence and protecting workers.

Click here to download (.pdf format, 3.1 mb)

OHSCO has also put together a concise brochure with the definitions of workplace violence, workplace harassment, domestic violence, and work refusal. It also contains information on what employers need to do and where to go for more help.

Click here to download (.pdf format, 132 kb)

OHSCO: A Toolbox - This free 75-page downloadable resource is designed to support the What Employers Need to Know document and includes a range of information, tools and assessments that can assist employers in developing a workplace violence, harassment or domestic violence policy and program.  It includes a general Physical Environment Assessment, a Risk Factor Selection Tool, example policies for Workplace Violence and Harassment, information on creating a safety plan and more.

Click here to download.  (.pdf format, 1.4 mb)

How We Can Help - Our consultants are trained and prepared to provide assistance to firms in conducting a risk assessment and developing a violence and harassment program. We can work with your organization to assist in the integration of violence and harassment program requirements into your existing health & safety programs.

Please contact us at 1-888-478-6772 to arrange for an appointment with your local consultant.



Bill 168 overview

Bill 168 will require employers to develop

  • violence* and harassment policies and programs;
  • employee reporting and incident investigation procedures;
  • emergency response procedure (violence only);
  • process to deal with incidents, complaints and threats of violence.

* Employers are required to complete a risk assessment of violence hazards that may arise from the nature of the workplace, the type of work, or the conditions of work, before developing a program.

Bill 168 adopts an approach similar to other federal and provincial violence and harassment laws by

  • providing clarity around employer accountability;
  • taking a process-driven, "how-to" approach to compliance;
  • sending a "take action" message to supervisors and middle-managers.

Bill 168 definitions of workplace violence and harassment

Under Bill 168, workplace violence is defined as:

  • "The exercise of physical force by a person against a worker in a workplace that causes or could cause physical injury to a worker"
  • "An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker in a workplace that could cause physical injury to a worker"
  • "A statement or behaviour that is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker"

Under Bill 168, workplace harassment is defined as:

  • "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"

Bill 168 requirements for domestic violence that comes into the workplace

If an employer becomes aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that domestic violence that would likely expose a worker to physical injury may occur in the workplace, the employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker.

Below are a couple of resources to help

- employers

- co-workers of victims of domestic violence

(please click on the images below to access the information booklets created by the Occupational Health & Safety Council of Ontario (OHSCO)


What Employers Need to Know to Help

How to Get Help or Support a Colleague who may Need Help

Just how widespread is workplace violence?

  • From April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009, Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors made 417 field visits and issued 351 orders related to violence in the workplace (MOL, 2009)
  • In 2007, there were 2,150 allowed lost-time claims from assaults, violent acts, harassment and acts of war or terrorism in Ontario. (WSIB, 2007)
  • Bullied employees waste 10% to 52% of their time at work. Research shows they spend time defending themselves and networking for support, thinking about the situation, being de-motivated and stressed, not to mention taking sick leave due to stress-related illnesses. (CSC)
  • According to the 2004 General Social Survey, 17% of all self-reported incidents of violent victimization, including sexual assault, robbery and physical assault, happened at the workplace. This represents over 356,000 violent workplace incidents in Canada. (StatCan, 2007)
  • There is evidence that violence has increased in Canadian workplaces over the past five years: 66% of organizations report an increase in aggressive acts within their workplaces. And, 82% report an increase in both formal incident reports and grievances. (CIWV, 2000)

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Who's at risk

The risk of workplace violence is greater in work activities that involve:

  • working in a community-based setting
  • working with unstable or volatile clients
  • handling cash
  • mobile workplaces
  • contact with clients
  • working in high crime areas
  • securing / protecting valuables
  • transporting people and / or goods
  • working alone in small numbers

What's the impact of workplace violence?

Workplace violence affects the health, safety and security of employees, supervisors and employers.

Harm to victims

The emotional and physical trauma to victims, their families and co-workers has immeasurable personal costs.

Research also shows that bullied employees, for example, are unproductive between 10 and 52 per cent of their time at work. These employees spend time

  • defending themselves and networking for support;
  • thinking about the situation;
  • being de-motivated and stressed;
  • taking sick leave due to stress-related illnesses. (CSC)

Harm to organizations

Violence and harassment also exact a heavy toll on organizations.

Harm to organizational culture:

- Harm to image, reputation

- Difficulty in employee recruitment, training and retention

- Reduced morale and productivity

- Strained management-employee relations

Harm to the bottom line:

- Absenteeism and sick leave

- Employee turnover

- Employee Assistance Program costs

- Short term / long term disability and drug plan costs

- Workplace accidents

- Stress-related lawsuits

What are the types of workplace violence and harassment?

Type 1: Criminal intent

  • Involves a person with no relationship to the workplace who commits a violent act, such as: theft - money, cars, drugs, personal belongings; hostage taking / kidnapping; physical assault

Type 2: Client

  • The violent act is 'willful intent' to cause harm
  • Majority of workplace violent events are client-related

Type 3: Employee-Related

  • "Repeated and persistent negative acts towards one or more individual(s), which involve a perceived power imbalance and create a toxic or unhealthy work environment" (Salin, 2003)

Type 4: Personal Relationships

  • Relationship violence that occurs at the workplace, i.e., a loved one / family member that commits a violent act against a worker (domestic violence) (NIOSH, 2006)

How can I get a copy of Bill 168

To obtain a copy of Bill 168, visit:

How OSSA can help

1. What you need to know:

  • A chart that compares what was originally in the Act, and what has changed

2. A checklist you can use immediately to help you identify the risk areas in your workplace and what program elements you have vs. need.

3. Education and training opportunities where you can learn more:

4. Contact OSSA for personalized help at 1-888-478-6772 or


Canada Safety Council: Bullying in the Workplace - The Burden of Bullying

Canadian Initiative on Workplace Violence: The National Labour Survey, Executive Summary, March 2000

MOL News Release: Protecting People At Work, December 9, 2009

NIOSH: Workplace Violence Prevention Strategies and Research Needs, NIOSH Publication No. 2006-144, September 2006

Salin, D, 'Ways of explaining workplace bullying: A review of enabling, motivating and precipitating structures and processes in the work environment', Human Relations, vol.56, no.10, pp.1213-1232, 2003

Statistics Canada: Canada Centre for Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization in the Workplace, February 2007

WSIB: 2007 Statistical Supplement, Table 10

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