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Workplace Violence and Harassment

Violence, harassment and bullying in various forms can impact organizational culture and damage your bottom line, reputation, relations and more. On June 15, 2010, the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 168, which amends the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) to include specific requirements regarding violence and harassment in the workplace.


According to the Ministry of Labour’s Bill 168:

  • Workplace violence is:
    • 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.

  • Workplace harassment is:
    • 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.

  • Domestic violence:
    • becomes workplace violence or harassment when it occurs or spills over into the workplace. It is also known as personal relationship violence, intimate partner violence, woman abuse or family violence. Bill 168 requires employers to be aware, or reasonably be aware, that domestic violence may occur in the workplace, and to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect a worker at risk of physical injury.

How does Bill 168 affect you?

Employers are required to take every precaution reasonable to protect their employees. Bill 168 affects workplaces in Ontario who regularly employ more than five workers.

The OHSA provides detailed employer responsibilities regarding workplace violence and harassment, such as:

  • preparing written policies and maintaining a program with respect to workplace violence. Policies should apply to management, employees, clients, independent contractors and anyone who has a relationship with your company.
  • preparing written policies with respect to workplace harassment.
  • reviewing policies as often as is necessary, but at least annually.
  • training workers on these policies, and posting them in visible locations at the workplace.

Employers should demonstrate effective crisis leadership and response to reduce the risk of violence at work by:

  • informing the health and safety committee of workplace violence and harassment incidents.
  • providing ways for reporting instances or risks of workplace violence or harassment.
  • disciplining employees for not following workplace violence and harassment policies or for committing workplace violence or harassment.
  • ensuring proper security measures are in place at the workplace to protect workers from members of the public or customers.

Who is at Risk?

Certain work factors, processes and interactions can put employees at increased risk for workplace violence. Examples include:

  • Community-based settings
  • Meeting public, unstable or unhappy clients
  • Handling money
  • Mobile workplaces
  • Securing or protecting valuables
  • Working alone or in small numbers


Preventing Workplace Violence and Harassment

Prevention begins with the creation of a healthy and supportive environment at your workplace. Foster a supportive environment by providing employees with access to:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
  • Employee Benefit Plan (massage, etc.)
  • Human Resources
  • Management, and/or Union Representative
  • Occupational Health Nurse
  • Other resources that will enable employees to better cope with stress, including:


Tools for Compliance

Having policies at your workplace is the law, but it also reduces the potential for violent incidents. They will establish clear precedents and guidelines to prevent violence or harassment amongst employees.

  • Industrial Accident and Prevention Association provides an employee risk assessment questionnaire. (PDF 28 KB, 2 pages)
  • Ontario Service Safety Alliance provides a violence prevention gap analysis checklist. (PDF 93 KB, 2 pages)
  • Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario (OHSCO) provides information on what employers need to know (PDF 3 MB, 44 pages), and developing policies and programs. (PDF 1.4MB, 80 pages) \
  • WorkSafeBC provides a guide on how to develop and implement workplace violence prevention policies and programs. (PDF 466 KB, 32 pages)


Facts & Stats

  • 37% of Canadian employees have been bullied.
  • 40% of bullied individuals never tell their employers.
  • 45% of targets suffer stress-related health problems.


Additional Resources


Other Topics


Revised: July 31, 2014


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