Ontario’s workplace violence bill and its information sharing component

Bill 29, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect workers from harassment and violence in the workplace, was introduced by a private member belonging to the NDP on December 13th of last year. It would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to require employers to protect workers from harassment and violence in the workplace whether perpetrated by employees, clients or other individuals the employer serves (e.g. students). This represents an expansion of the Ministry of Labour’s current jurisdiction, which has been held to be limited to addressing the threat of physical violence.

Notably, in its current form, the Bill includes number of duties that are triggered when an employer has reason to believe that harassment or violence has occurred or is likely to occur, including specific duties to:

  • identify the source of the harassment or violence;
  • ensure that further harassment or violence is prevented or stopped;
  • where necessary, take steps to remove the source of the harassment or violence from the workplace; and,
  • contact law enforcement, where appropriate.

As drafted, the Bill does not require routine threat surveillance as a measure to prevent harassment or violence.

Similar bills have been introduced by NDP members in the past, but this Bill comes shortly after a Coroner’s Jury report into the death of, Lori Dupont, a nurse who was killed by her former boyfriend (also a resident physician) at a hospital in Windsor. The Coroner’s Jury report recommends changes to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. It also includes recommendations that stress the importance of information sharing, medical/behavioral monitoring, clear chains of command and decisive, risk-based decision making. Here is a copy of the report along with the Ontario Hospital Association’s media release.