Protecting employees from violence in the work place is of critical importance across Canada. Although we do not normally go to work expecting it to occur, violence can happen at any work place and it can have a serious impact on those affected, their families, and the way employers do business. For this reason, paragraph 125(1)(z.16) of the Canada Labour Code requires employers under federal jurisdiction to "take the prescribed steps to prevent and protect against violence in the work place." Part XX of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, "Violence Prevention in the Work Place," contains the prescribed steps that must be implemented.
The purpose of these Violence Prevention Regulations is to ensure that employers take measures to prevent or minimize the occurrence of violence in the work place and to protect employees against it, ensuring that they have access to assistance and a recourse if they happen to be exposed to it.
The Violence Prevention Regulations only cover violence occurring in the course of employment over which the employer has control, whether this employment takes place within or outside the work place. Violence in the work place includes:
"Work place violence" is "any action, conduct, threat or gesture of a person towards an employee in their work place that can reasonably be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that employee."
"Work place" is defined in the Canada Labour Code, Part II to mean "any place where an employee is engaged in work for the employee's employer."
"Work place" includes any area where an employee is making a delivery for the employer, any location where an employee is providing a service under the employer's direction, and any mode of transportation (e.g., train, plane) where the employee is traveling in the course of business.
It does not include parking lots not controlled by the employer, modes of transportation for employees travelling outside working hours (e.g., going to or from work) or locations hosting non-mandatory recreational activities that may be sponsored by the employer such as a company picnic or golf tournament.
Specific circumstances relating to a particular incident must be carefully considered in determining work-relatedness. An example would be the situation where an employee chooses to conduct work on a BlackBerry during unpaid time and receives a threatening e-mail response back from another employee.
The Code does not define the term "person." This term is meant to include those individuals who work in the work place (i.e., co-workers) as well as individuals with whom the employee may come into contact while working, such as the general public.
The Code does not define the term reasonably practicable. The word practicable is normally interpreted as "that which is performable, feasible, and possible". Decisions on what measures to implement may only be taken if it is reasonably practicable. Please refer to the Interpretations, Policies and Guidelines (IPG) 920-IPG-055 "Criteria for Reasonably Practicable General" available on the Labour Program website, or contact your local Labour Program district office for more information.