Oral Health Group

What is Workplace Violence and How Do I Protect My Employees?

March 24, 2013
by sandie

Providing a safe working environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity is more than just posting a policy. It is necessary to have a continuous program in place that is reviewed annually. The Ministry of Labour takes this very seriously and the potential fines for non-compliance are extremely high and may be levied per incident.

The program begins with having a policy in place to establish procedures to reduce the risk of violence or harassment in the workplace and to foster workplace safety and security. All workers are responsible for preventing and reporting any workplace violence or harassment that threatens a safe work environment. Workplace violence or workplace harassment, or threats of violence or harassment, must not be tolerated.

What is a Threat?

A threat can be an implication or expression of intent to inflict physical harm or actions that a reasonable person would interpret as a threat to physical safety. Whether or not the person intends to carry out the threat or not doesn’t matter, it must be taken seriously.

What is Workplace Violence?

Workplace violence, is the use, or attempted use, of physical force against a worker that could cause physical injury. Workplace violence also includes a statement or behaviour that a worker could reasonably interpret as a threat to use physical force against him/her that could cause physical injury.

What is Workplace Harassment?

Workplace harassment, may be considered a course of vexatious comments or conduct against a worker that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Each dental office should undertake at least one annual risk assessment of the workplace. The completed assessment must be presented to the Health and Safety Representative (HSR). If there is no HSR, the assessment results will be reported to workers and made available upon request. If risks are found during the assessment, the dentist will work with the HSR, and/or security to determine and implement a solution.

Reporting Violence or Harassment in the Workplace

Any worker who is subjected to, a witness of, or has knowledge of, any incidents or threats of workplace violence or harassment, is required to immediately report the incident to his or her supervisor or HSR. This includes reporting domestic violence situations that would likely expose a worker to physical injury in the workplace.

Dental offices are must comply with all reporting obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including with respect to reporting obligations related to workplace violence.


An incident or complaint of potential or actual workplace violence or harassment should be investigated promptly and impartially. Any worker filing a report is required to do so in writing. Although the dental office must make every effort to keep the incident or complaint as confidential as possible, it is not always possible to do so in the course of investigating or resolving an incident or complaint of potential or actual workplace violence or harassment.

An incident or complaint should be investigated in a manner appropriate in the circumstances. This may include an internal investigation or the use of external resources. The investigators may undertake some or all of the following procedures as deemed appropriate in the circumstances:

• Review the allegations
• Conduct interview(s) of the complainant, potential witnesses, the subject of the complaint, or anyone with relevant information
• Collect and review documents
• Review the workplace or sites of the incident

After conducting its investigation, the investigation team should make an objective assessment of whether there has been a violation of the office policy. The outcome of the investigation must be reported to the complainant and individual that is the subject of the complaint.

It is also important to provide all staff members with training and education with respect to the contents of the policy and program that protects workers against workplace violence and harassment. If you wish to receive a sample copy of a Workplace Anti-violence and anti-harassment policy, please send me an email to sandie@dentalofficeconsulting.com with the subject line “anti-violence policy.”

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