On December 9, 2009, Bill 168, the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace) 2009 passed third reading in the Ontario legislature.  This new law will amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act by introducing new duties on employers with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment.  It is anticipated that this bill will be proclaimed shortly, and is scheduled to come into effect six months after that.

Companies therefore have until summer 2010 to fall into compliance with the new law. 

In a nutshell, the bill requires employers to be far more assertive when dealing with workplace violence and harassment.  General information can be found in these government backgrounders:  Protecting People at Work and New Protections.

Highlights of the bill include the following requirements:

  • Develop and implement a policy that specifically deals with workplace violence and harassment
  • Develop a program to inform employees about the policy and to implement that policy on an on-going basis
  • Take reasonable precautions to protect workers from domestic violence that occurs in the workplace
  • Conduct workplace assessments on the risks of workplace violence, and to report back to the health and safety committee or representative, or if neither exist, directly to the employees
  • Identify risks of workplace violence from a person with a history of violent behaviour and determine what information should be disclosed to protect the safety of workers and
  • Allow workers will have the right to refuse to work if they believe that they are at risk of workplace violence.

The bill introduces some novel legal obligations, and I will provide updates on any interesting initiatives and guidelines that I come across over the next couple of months.