Violence and Harassment

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Violence and harassment can exist in every workplace. Employers have responsibilities under the OHS legislation to implement measures to identify and control these hazards by conducting a risk assessment and developing violence and harassment prevention plans.

Workplace violence and harassment can come in many forms including shaking fists, throwing objects, threats, and physical attacks. Common risks of workplace violence and harassment include:

  • Working with the public;
  • Dealing with volatile persons;
  • Handling money;
  • Storing valuables or prescription drugs;
  • Providing care; and
  • Working in a high crime area.

Workplace harassment includes many actions that are known, or would be expected, to be unwelcome and cause a worker to be humiliated, offended or intimidated. Some examples include:

  • Unwelcome conduct, comments, gestures, or contact which causes offense or humiliation;
  • Misusing power or authority;
  • Physical or psychological bullying which creates fear or mistrust, or which ridicules or devalues the individual;
  • Excluding, intimidating or isolating individuals;
  • Making inappropriate gestures or comments;
  • Cyber bullying such as posting offensive or intimidating messages through social media or e-mail; and
  • Making inappropriate sexual advances.

Employer Responsibilities

Violence prevention

Employers must:

  • Conduct a risk assessment for violence which reviews:
  • Keep any personal information obtained during the risk assessment confidential, and not disclose this information unless required in an investigation or by law.

When the risk assessment identifies possible injury to workers, the employer must:

  • Develop procedures, policies, and arrangements to the work environment that will eliminate, where possible, or otherwise minimize the risk from violence to workers.
  • Take all reasonable steps to protect its workers, if they are aware, or should be aware, that family violence may expose a worker to physical injury at the workplace.
  • Inform workers about the risk of violence, and what precautions that may be taken.
  • Inform workers as to the risk of violence they may face at work from specific persons with a known history of violent behaviour. For example, a bar owner must inform its staff of a patron with a history of assaulting staff or causing fights in the bar.

Harassment prevention

Employers must have a written harassment prevention plan, developed in consultation with the Occupational Health and Safety Committee, Worker Health and Safety Representative, or Designate.

The harassment prevention plan must:

  • State that every worker is to have employment free from workplace harassment.
  • State that the employer is committed to elimination, where possible, or otherwise minimizing harassment.
  • State that workers must take reasonable care to:
    • Not bully or harass others in the workplace;
    • Report if they see or experience bullying or harassment; and
    • Follow the harassment prevention plan.
  • Have procedures for workers to report harassment to their employer, supervisor, or a designated third party.
  • Have procedures to follow when a complaint is received, and outline how a complaint will be investigated.
  • State the employer will investigate workplace harassment complaints.
  • State that any information gathered will not be released unless it is necessary for the investigation, to correct actions, or required by law.
  • Have procedures to notify those involved of the results of the investigation and what actions will be taken.
  • State that the harassment prevention plan does not discourage workers from upholding their rights provided by the Human Rights Act, 2010, the Criminal Code of Canada, or other laws.
  • State that the employer shall protect workers from retaliation and provide support to workers when workplace harassment occurs.
  • Be available to all workers.
  • Be reviewed when necessary and at least once a year.
  • Include a statement that the workers have an obligation to take reasonable care not to engage in bullying or workplace harassment.

The employer must participate in harassment prevention related training, and provide training about harassment prevention and about the employer’s harassment prevention plan to all workers.

An OHS Officer may, where he or she deems it necessary, order that an impartial third party investigate a complaint, and this party must be paid for by the employer.

Worker Responsibilities

Workers must:

  • Participate in training, if provided.
  • Participate in violence risk assessments when requested.
  • Follow the harassment prevention plan.
  • Not bully or harass others in the workplace.
  • Immediately report bullying to the supervisor or employer.

Related topics

Violence

The attempted or actual exercise of physical force to cause injury to a worker and includes threatening statements or behaviour which gives a worker reason to believe that they are at risk of injury.

Harassment

Inappropriate vexatious conduct or comment by a person to a worker that the person knew or ought to have known would cause the worker to be humiliated, offended or intimidated.

Risk assessment

A risk assessment is a thorough check of the work environment and task before work begins.
The purpose is to identify potential hazards and appropriate safety measures to be used to eliminate or reduce the hazards.

Occupational Health and Safety Committee

Where 10 or more workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall establish an occupational health and safety committee to monitor the health, safety and welfare of the workers employed at the workplace.
A committee shall consist of 2 to 12 persons. Where the employer and workers cannot agree on the size of the committee, the minister may establish its size.
At least half of the members are to be persons representing the workers who are not connected with the management. The persons representing the workers are to be elected by other workers or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the union of which the workers are members.
The employer shall appoint sufficient employer representatives to ensure that the committee may function.
The employer and worker members of a committee shall elect a co-chairperson from their respective groups.
The employer shall post the names of the committee members in a prominent place at the workplace.
A committee:
  • Shall seek to identify aspects of the workplace that may be unhealthy or unsafe;
  • Shall participate in a workplace inspection that an employer is required by the regulations to conduct;
  • May make recommendations to principal contractors, employers, workers, self-employed persons and the assistant deputy minister or an officer for the enforcement of standards to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers at the workplace;
  • Shall receive complaints from workers as to their concerns about the health and safety of the workplace and their welfare;
  • Shall establish and promote health and safety educational programs for workers;
  • Shall maintain records as to the receipt and disposition of complaints received from workers;
  • Shall co-operate with the assistant deputy minister or an officer who is exercising his or her duties under the act; and
  • Shall perform those other duties and follow those procedures that may be prescribed by the regulations.
Meetings of a committee shall take place during regular working hours at least once every 3 months and a worker is not to suffer loss of pay or other benefits while engaged in a meeting of a committee.

Worker Health and Safety Representative

Where less than 10 workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall ensure that a worker not connected with the management of the workplace is designated as the worker health and safety representative to monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace.

The worker health and safety representative is to be elected by other workers at the workplace or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the labour union of which the workers are members.
The employer shall post the name of the worker health and safety representative in a prominent place at the workplace.
A worker health and safety representative has the same duties as those imposed upon a committee where that is reasonably practicable.
A worker health and safety representative shall consult with his or her employer while performing his or her duties.

Workplace Health and Safety Designate

Where less than 6 persons are engaged at a workplace and the designation of a worker health and safety representative is impracticable, the employer may designate a workplace health and safety designate to monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace.
The workplace health and safety designate shall be appointed by the employer. The workplace health and safety designate may be either a worker connected with the management of the workplace; or the employer, if the designation of a worker connected with the management of the workplace is not practicable.
If the assistant deputy minister or an officer is of the opinion that a workplace health and safety designate cannot adequately monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace, the assistant deputy minister or officer shall order, in writing, that a worker health and safety representative be designated.
The employer shall provide and pay for training for the workplace health and safety designate. The training provided shall meet the requirements that the Workplace Health and Safety Compensation Commission may set. An employer shall compensate a worker for participating in training as if the training were regular work.
The workplace health and safety designate shall participate in the training provided.
The employer shall post the name of the worker health and safety designate in a prominent place at the workplace.
A worker health and safety designate has the same duties as those imposed upon a committee where that is reasonably practicable.
A worker health and safety designate, where the workplace health and safety designate is not the employer, shall consult with his or her employer while performing his or her duties. Where the workplace health and safety designate is the employer, he or she shall consult with the workers while performing his or her duties.

Family violence

In the Family Violence Protection Act, family violence means one or more of the following acts or omissions committed against an applicant or a child by a respondent:

  • An assault that consists of the intentional application of force that causes the applicant to fear for his or her safety but does not include an act committed in self-defence;
  • An intentional, reckless or threatened act or omission that causes bodily harm or damage to property;
  • An intentional, reckless or threatened act or omission that causes a reasonable fear of bodily harm or damage to property;
  • Forcible physical confinement without lawful authority;
  • Sexual assault, sexual exploitation or sexual molestation, or the threat of sexual assault, sexual exploitation or sexual molestation;
  • Conduct that causes the applicant to reasonably fear for his or her safety, including following, contacting, communicating with, observing or recording a person;
    • Conduct that causes psychological or emotional harm or a reasonable fear of that harm, including a pattern of behaviour the purpose of which is to undermine the psychological or emotional well-being of the applicant or a child;
    • Conduct that controls, exploits or limits the applicant's access to financial resources for the purpose of ensuring the applicant's financial dependency; and
  • The deprivation of food, clothing, medical attention, shelter, transportation or other necessaries of life.

Human Rights Act, 2010

An Act respecting human rights.

https://www.assembly.nl.ca/Legislation/sr/statutes/h13-1.htm

Criminal Code of Canada

An Act respecting the Criminal Law.

https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/

OHS Officer

An occupational health and safety officer appointed under this Act and includes a medical practitioner providing services under section 20 while he or she is providing those services.

Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2012
N.L.R. 5/12

Part III GENERAL DUTIES

Section 17 General duties of workers

17. (1) A worker shall make proper use of all necessary safeguards, protective clothing, safety devices, lifting devices or aids, and appliances

(a) designated and provided for his or her protection by the employer; or

(b) required under these regulations to be used or worn by a worker.

(2) A worker shall follow the safe work procedure in which he or she has been instructed.

(3) A worker shall immediately report a hazardous work condition that may come to his or her attention to the employer or supervisor.

Section 22 Interpretation

22. (1) In sections 23 and 24, "violence" means the attempted or actual exercise of physical force to cause injury to a worker and includes threatening statements or behaviour which gives a worker reason to believe that he or she is at risk of injury.

(2) In this section and section 24.1, "workplace harassment" means inappropriate vexatious conduct or comment by a person to a worker that the person knew or ought to have known would cause the worker to be humiliated, offended or intimidated.

(3) In sections 24.1 and 24.2, "harassment prevention plan" means a plan developed, implemented and maintained by an employer in accordance with section 24.1.

(4) A reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the workplace is not workplace harassment.

[N.L.R. 3/19, s. 1]

Section 22.1 Risk assessment

22.1 (1) An employer shall conduct a risk assessment which shall include consideration of

(a) previous experience in the workplace;

(b) occupational experience in similar workplaces;

(c) the location and circumstances in which work may take place;

(d) workplace characteristics including demographics, culture and the presence of new workers; and

(e) issues raised by the occupational health and safety committee, the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate.

(2) Where an employer obtains personal information in the course of conducting a risk assessment under this section, the employer shall keep the personal information confidential and shall not disclose the personal information except for the purpose of an investigation or where required by law.

[N.L.R. 3/19, s. 1]

Section 23 Violence prevention

23. (1) Where a risk of injury to workers from violence is identified by an assessment performed under section 22.1, the employer shall

(a) establish procedures, policies and work environment arrangements to eliminate the risk to workers from violence; and

(b) where elimination of the risk to workers is not possible, establish procedures, policies and work environment arrangements to minimize the risk to workers.

(2) Where an employer becomes aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that family 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.

(3) In this section, "family violence" has the same meaning as in section 3 of the Family Violence Protection Act.

[N.L.R. 3/19, s. 1]

Section 24 Instruction to workers

24. (1) An employer shall inform workers who may be exposed to the risk of violence of the nature of the risk and the precautions that may be taken.

(2) The duty to inform workers in subsection (1) includes a duty to provide information related to the risk of violence from persons who have a history of violent behaviour and whom workers are likely to encounter in the course of their work.

Section 24.1 Harassment prevention plan

24.1 (1) An employer shall develop, implement and maintain a written harassment prevention plan in consultation with the occupational health and safety committee, the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate.

(2) A harassment prevention plan shall

(a) include a statement that every worker is entitled to employment free from workplace harassment;

(b) include a statement that the employer is committed to eliminating, where possible, or otherwise, minimizing the hazard of workplace harassment;

(c) include a statement of the worker's obligation to take reasonable care to

(i) not engage in bullying or workplace harassment,

(ii) report observations or experiences of bullying and workplace harassment, and

(iii) comply with the harassment prevention plan;

(d) include a statement of a supervisor's obligation to ensure the health and safety of workers, including the supervisor's obligation to apply and comply with the harassment prevention plan;

(e) set out the procedures for workers to report instances of harassment to an employer or supervisor or where the employer or supervisor is the alleged harasser, the procedures to report harassment to an external third party;

(f) set out the procedures to be followed after a complaint of workplace harassment is received and the manner in which a complaint is investigated;

(g) include a statement that any information obtained relating to workplace harassment, including personal information, will not be disclosed unless it is necessary for the purpose of an investigation, corrective action relating to the complaint or where required by law;

(h) set out the procedures regarding notification of results of investigations and any actions to be taken as a result of an investigation;

(i) include a statement that the harassment prevention plan is not intended to discourage a worker from exercising his or her rights under the Human Rights Act, 2010, the Criminal Code (Canada) or any other law of the province or of Canada; and

(j) include a statement that the employer shall protect workers from retaliation and provide support to workers when workplace harassment occurs.

(3) The harassment prevention plan shall be

(a) accessible to all workers in the workplace; and

(b) reviewed as necessary but at least annually.

(4) An employer shall investigate complaints of workplace harassment.

(5) An officer may, where he or she considers it necessary, order that an impartial third party investigate a complaint of workplace harassment.

(6) Any expenses relating to an investigation referred to in subsection (6) shall be the responsibility of the employer.

[N.L.R. 3/19, s. 2]

Section 24.2 Training

24.2 (1) An employer shall participate in training relating to harassment prevention.

(2) An employer shall provide training to employees regarding harassment prevention and the harassment prevention plan.

[N.L.R. 3/19, s. 2]

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
R.S.N.L. 1990, c. O-3

Section 2 Definitions

2. In this Act

(a) "assistant deputy minister" means an assistant deputy minister appointed under section 9 of the Executive Council Act for the proper conduct of this Act;

(b) "board" means the Labour Relations Board referred to in the Labour Relations Act;

(c) "committee" means an occupational health and safety committee referred to in this Act;

(d) "council" means the Occupational Health and Safety Council referred to in this Act;

(e) "division" means the Occupational Health and Safety Division;

(f) "employer" means a person who employs 1 or more workers;

(g) "minister" means the minister appointed under the Executive Council Act to administer this Act;

(h) "occupation" means employment prescribed by the regulations as an occupation;

(i) "officer" means an occupational health and safety officer appointed under this Act and includes a medical practitioner providing services under section 20 while he or she is providing those services;

(j) "principal contractor" means the person primarily responsible for the carrying out of a project and includes the person who owns the thing in respect of which the project is being carried out;

(k) "self-employed person" means a person who is engaged in an occupation on his or her own behalf;

(k.1) "supervisor" means a person authorized or designated by an employer to exercise direction and control over workers of the employer;

(l) "supplier" means a person who rents or leases tools, appliances or equipment to be used by a worker;

(m) "worker" means a person engaged in an occupation; and

(n) "workplace" means a place where a worker or self-employed person is engaged in an occupation and includes a vehicle or mobile equipment used by a worker in an occupation.

[S.N.L. 1999, c. 28, s. 1; 2006, c. 16, s. 1; 2009, c. 19, s. 1]

Section 37 Committees

37. Where 10 or more workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall establish an occupational health and safety committee to monitor the health, safety and welfare of the workers employed at the workplace.

[S.N.L. 1999, c. 28, s. 9]

Section 38 Membership of committees

38. (1) A committee shall consist of the number of persons that may be agreed to by the employer and the workers but shall not be less than 2 nor more than 12 persons.

(2) At least half of the members of a committee are to be persons representing the workers at the workplace who are not connected with the management of the workplace.

(3) The persons representing the workers on the committee are to be elected by other workers at the workplace or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the union of which the workers are members.

(4) Where the employer and workers cannot agree on the size of the committee, the minister may establish its size.

(5) The employer shall appoint sufficient employer representatives to ensure that the committee may function.

(6) The employer and worker members of a committee shall elect a co- chairperson from their respective groups.

(7) The employer shall post the names of the committee members in a prominent place at the workplace.

Section 39 Duties of committees

39. A committee established under section 37

(a) shall seek to identify aspects of the workplace that may be unhealthy or unsafe;

(a.1) shall participate in a workplace inspection that an employer is required by the regulations to conduct;

(b) may make recommendations to principal contractors, employers, workers, self-employed persons and the assistant deputy minister or an officer for the enforcement of standards to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers at the workplace;

(c) shall receive complaints from workers as to their concerns about the health and safety of the workplace and their welfare;

(d) shall establish and promote health and safety educational programs for workers;

(e) shall maintain records as to the receipt and disposition of complaints received from workers under paragraph (c);

(f) shall co-operate with the assistant deputy minister or an officer who is exercising his or her duties under the Act; and

(g) shall perform those other duties and follow those procedures that may be prescribed by the regulations.

[S.N.L. 2001, c. 10, s. 29]

Section 40 Meetings of committee

40. Meetings of a committee shall take place during regular working hours at least once every 3 months and a worker is not to suffer loss of pay or other benefits while engaged in a meeting of a committee.

Section 41 Worker representative

41. (1) Where less than 10 workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall ensure that a worker not connected with the management of the workplace is designated as the worker health and safety representative to monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace.

(2) The employer shall provide and pay for training for the worker health and safety representative.

(3) The training provided under subsection (2) shall meet the requirements the Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission may set.

(4) The worker health and safety representative shall participate in the training provided under this section.

(5) An employer shall compensate a worker for participating in training under this section as if the training were regular work.

[S.N.L. 2001, c. 10, s. 30; 2004, c. 47, s. 27]

Section 42 Election of representative

42. The worker health and safety representative is to be elected by other workers at the workplace or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the labour union of which the workers are members.

Section 43 Posting name

43. The employer shall post the name of the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate in a prominent place at the workplace.

[S.N.L. 2004, c. 52, s. 9]

Section 44 Duties of representative

44. (1) A worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate has the same duties as those imposed upon a committee under section 39, where that is reasonably practicable.

(2) A worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate, where the workplace health and safety designate is not the employer, shall consult with his or her employer while performing his or her duties under subsection (1).

(3) Where the workplace health and safety designate is the employer, he or she shall consult with the workers while performing his or her duties under subsection (1).

[S.N.L. 2004, c. 52, s. 10]

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