Resource Articles

March 2011 Bookmark and Share

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, came into effect June 15, 2010. Workplaces in Ontario are now required to have the necessary policies, programs, measures and procedures in place.

What you need to know about workplace violence and harassment

How IAPA Can Help

workplace violenceIAPA’s newest offerings are specifically designed to help you understand and comply with Bill 168 requirements:

A half-day workshop, Preventing Violence and Harassment at Work, will help managers, H&S professionals, supervisors and others to develop practical, time-saving solutions for complying with Bill 168.

New! A 2-hour e-course, Developing Your Workplace Violence and Harassment Program in Ontario, will help you to develop an effective program and prepare for domestic violence should it enter your workplace.

Additional Workplace Violence Offerings:
The following offerings cover the topic of workplace violence in a  general manner.

HRPA and Safe Workplace Promotion Services Ontario (comprised of IAPA, OSSA and Farm Safety) have teamed up to present on demand webinars on what your organization needs to know to comply with Bill 168 -- Ontario's new workplace violence and harassment legislation.

Our consultants are trained and prepared to provide assistance to firms in conducting a risk assessment and developing a violence and harassment program. We will work with your organization to assist in the integration of violence and harassment program requirements into your existing OHS programs. Please contact Customer Care at 1-800-406-4272 to arrange to for an appointment with your local consultant.


Partner Resources
The MOL and other health and safety system partners are in the process of developing a series of resources to assist employer understanding and compliance with Bill 168 requirements. The following resources are now available. Check back regularly for additional material including guides, templates and tools slated for release prior to the June enforcement deadline.

New! OHSCO Workplace Violence Prevention Series
Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety System Partners, including the workplace safety associations, Ministry of Labour and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, have developed resource material for firms to better prepare for the new workplace violence and harassment program requirements came into effect June 15th, 2010. These resources include a document outlining the steps employers need to know to develop and implement a program and a toolkit to assist workplaces with their risk assessments for the workplace violence portion of the new requirements.

Protecting Workers from Workplace Violence: What Employers Need to Know
Violence Tookit
Violence Tookit
Domestic Violence Booklet
Domestic Violence Booklet

Bill 168 overview

Bill 168 poses unique challenges that most employers will need help with in terms of understanding the requirements; realizing the far-reaching implications; and devising strategies for compliance.

The legislation 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

Violence and harassment have no place in the workplace.


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

The employer must respond when aware of domestic violence that may expose a worker to physical injury in the workplace.


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 10-52% 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 5 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).


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 or 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 demotivated 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 the Bottom Line
  • Harm to image, reputation
  • Difficulty in employee recruitment, training and retention
  • Reduced morale and productivity
  • Strained management-employee relations
  • 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 I: 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 II: Client

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

Type III: 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 IV: 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:



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

WSIB: 2007 Statistical Supplement, Table 10

IAPA Resources