No easy fix for violence at work (Editor’s notes)

Legislation alone doesn't seem to reduce violent incidents
By Todd Humber
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/07/2007

The numbers are staggering. And, as outlined on page one of this issue, they’re likely just the tip of the iceberg. According to Statistics Canada, there were more than 356,000 violent incidents in workplaces across the country in 2004. It’s hard to put this number into perspective because this is the first time the agency has collected this type of data.

But look at it this way — that’s about one violent incident for every man, woman and child in the Halifax area.

The costs associated with workplace violence, both financial and emotional, are exorbitant. Even very minor incidents can leave deep emotional scars, impacting productivity and morale at work. But what can employers do to protect staff from violence? After all, the Criminal Code is quite clear — as is common sense — that it’s illegal to assault another person and there are consequences for doing so. Some jurisdictions, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta, along with federally-regulated employers covered by the Canada Labour Code, have specific legislation around the employer’s duty to protect workers from violence. And it’s boiler-plate language in health and safety legislation across the country that employers have a general duty to protect workers.