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Bill 30 Update: Protecting Workers from Violence and Harassment under Alberta’s New Occupational Health and Safety (“OHS”) Legislation

30-Jul-18

By James Lingwood

It has been two months since Bill 30 came into force and dramatically changed the legal landscape facing employers in the Province of Alberta.

One of the more significant changes affecting all employers is the express recognition of “harassment” as a workplace hazard, which requires employers to protect their employees from this under OHS legislation. While employers have always been the primary party responsible for ensuring the health and safety of workers, this now specifically includes the requirement to protect not only their physical, but also their psychological and social, well-being.

In general terms, this means that employers and supervisors must ensure workers are not subject to, and do not participate in, violence or harassment at the work site. More specifically, Part 27 of the OHS Code has now been revamped to require employers to take the following steps to prevent workplace violence and harassment:

  • Address both violence and harassment as potential “hazards” when carrying out hazard assessments and implementing measures to eliminate or control those hazards, as required by Part 2 of the OHS Code;
     
  • Develop and implement violence and harassment prevention plans (consisting of prevention policies and procedures) in consultation with their joint work site health and safety committee, health and safety representative or affected workers, as applicable;
     
  • Ensure that their violence and harassment prevention policies include, among other things, statements outlining that the employer:
     
    • is committed to eliminating (where reasonably practicable) and controlling these hazards;
       
    • will investigate and take corrective action to address any incidents of violence and harassment; and
       
    • will not disclose personal information relating to incidents of violence and harassment (except where necessary to investigate, take corrective action or inform the parties involved of the results of the investigation into an incident, or to inform workers of a threat of violence or potential violence);
       
  • ensure that their violence and harassment prevention procedures include, among other things:
     
    • measures the employer will take to eliminate or control the hazard of violence;
       
    • information about the nature and extent of the hazard of violence (including information related to threats of violence or potential violence), and the procedures to be followed by the employer when disclosing this information;
       
    • the procedure to be followed by workers to obtain immediate assistance when an incident of violence occurs;
       
    • the procedure to be followed by workers when reporting violence or harassment;
       
    • the procedure to be followed by the employer when documenting, investigating, and implementing corrective measures to address incidents of violence or harassment;
       
    • the procedure to be followed by the employer when informing the parties involved of the results of an investigation and any corrective action taken;
       
  • provide training to workers with respect to recognizing, preventing, and responding to violence and harassment;
     
  • review (in consultation with their with their joint work site health and safety committee, health and safety representative or affected workers, as applicable) and update their violence and harassment prevention plans:
     
    • each time an incident occurs;
       
    • when their joint work site health and safety committee or health and safety representative (if applicable) recommends a review; and
       
    • at a minimum, once every three years;
       
  • advise workers who have reported an injury or adverse symptom resulting from an incident of violence or harassment to consult with a health professional (of the worker’s choosing) for treatment or referral, and if necessary provide workers with paid time off to attend such a consultation session; and
     
  • take reasonable precautions to protect persons at the worksite against domestic violence (if aware that a worker is or is likely to be exposed to domestic violence at a work site).

These are only some of the key responsibilities of employers in addressing workplace violence and harassment under Alberta’s newly revised OHS legislation, and does not provide a complete overview or a legal opinion on how best to address and respond to these obligations. Employers will need to carefully review their existing policies and procedures (in consultation with their with their joint work site health and safety committee, health and safety representative or affected workers, as applicable) and make the necessary revisions to ensure compliance with Alberta’s new OHS Act and revised OHS Code. Should you have questions as your organization undertakes this process, please feel free to reach out to one of the lawyers in our OHS group for further guidance.

References:

“Harassment” is defined under the OHS Act as any single incident or repeated incidents of objectionable or unwelcome conduct, comment, bullying or action by a person that the person knows or ought reasonably to know will or would cause offence or humiliation to a worker, or adversely affects the worker’s health and safety. This includes sexual solicitations or advances, as well as any conduct, comment and actions based on upon grounds already prohibited under human rights legislation, but it does not include any reasonable conduct of an employer or supervisor in respect of the management of workers or a work site.

“Violence” is defined under the OHS Act as any threatened, attempted or actual conduct of a person (whether at a work site or work-related) that causes or is likely to cause physical or psychological injury or harm, and includes domestic or sexual violence.

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