Workplace Violence – Is Your Human Resources Program Prepared?

Everyone wants their workplace to be safe and free from violence.  But unfortunately the unthinkable sometimes does occur as two recent violent situations in Canadian organizations demonstrate.  Human resources specialists know that violence is possible almost anywhere humans interact.  This includes the workplace, which is often a busy and stressful place.  The majority of our time is spent coping with work-related or even personal-related stress alongside our coworkers.  What can we do to help protect our employees from violence?

Workplace violence is often defined by HR consulting companies as follows:

  • An act of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that can or does cause injury or harm.
  • An attempt of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause injury or harm.
  • Or, a threat to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause injury or harm.

Employers and workplace human resources programs have a legal obligation to prevent workplace violence.  Every Canadian province and territory has its own Occupational Health and Safety legislation which is intended to protect all employees against hazards in the workplace.  Companies need to provide a safe workplace – one free from hazards to employee’s health, including free from the threat of violence.

What can you do to minimize the risk of violence in your organization and human resources program?  Working with your health and safety team or HR consulting company, the application of a workplace violence program can help minimize the risk of violence and keep your employees safe.  As the adage goes: It’s better to be safe than sorry.  Implementing a workplace violence human resources program now, before the unthinkable happens, makes sense and can prevent harm or injury.

The first step is to assess the dangers within your organization.  Consider the location of the business, dangers that your employees, customers or suppliers are exposed to, factors of the workplace itself or the nature of the work performed.  Take measures to eliminate these risks and implement policies and procedures to reduce the hazards that cannot be completely eliminated. Human resource specialists can help your organization with this process.

A workplace violence program should include the implementation of violence policies by communicating the purpose and scope of the policies and providing training to all employees and managers on what to do if there is a situation.  Your human resources program should include instructions for operational procedures during an emergency situation.  Include information on how emergency services are to be contacted, how to report incidents to management and what the investigative procedure will be.  Review your program on a regular basis with a human resources specialist to ensure the policies are effective and well communicated.

Be proactive!   Arm your employees and managers with the tools to help prevent workplace violence. Contact your PEO Canada HR Representative for more information on workplace violence policies to ensure you are compliant and safe.


Carolyn Olson / HR Administrator / PEO Canada

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