Canadian Occupational Safety

March/April 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 20 of 35 21 Commentary: The Nova Scotia Violence in the Workplace Regulations currently apply only to physical violence and threats, so Lawtons acted appropriately, Johnston says. But following this case, NDP MLA Tammy Martin introduced Bill 176 to change this rule and bring Nova Scotia law more in line with other jurisdictions across the country. "It's fair to say that legislators are moving more in the direction of protecting against more than just physical violence," says Johnston. "There is a growing recognition that workplace bullying or psychological harassment is a bad thing in the workplace and that can have a very negative impact on employees." As a best practice, he advises employers of all sizes to have respectful workplace policies and supports in place and to investigate any claims of harassment and bullying. "Just because the legislation doesn't require it hasn't prevented many Nova Scotia employers from protecting against this very corrosive behaviour," Johnston notes. Harassment and violence are also in the spotlight in Alberta, thanks to sweeping changes to health and safety legislation in 2018. Many employers have been grappling with the changes throughout 2019 and there's a lot of uncertainty around what they need to do. The new legislation has very specific requirements, including a harassment prevention plan, a violence prevention plan, a hazard assessment process, specific control measures, investigations for incidents and corrective action. "You have to be able to check quite a few boxes and the [plans] I have reviewed for clients, there's a lot that aren't meeting those requirements," says Wendel. "They have policies in place, but they were in place before and they have not been updated with the specific view of making sure they meet those legislative requirements." Also in 2019, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island updated their occupational health and safety legislation with new requirements pertaining to workplace harassment and/or violence. Employers under the federal regime are waiting with bated breath for the sexual harassment and violence regulations under the Canada Labour Code to come into force. At press time, a date had not yet been set, but Johnston is encouraging his federally regulated clients to be prepared and, for now, go by what has been outlined in the proposed regulations. For example, the proposed regulations state that an employer's workplace violence and harassment policy and assessments need to be in place when the regulations come into force. Plus, it says an employer will have six months after the date of the legislation coming into force to train its employees. "My hope is that there will be time given, lots of notice up front — 'We are going to have these regulations, this is what they look like and [this is when] they are going to come into force' — and the federal government will give employers time — lots of time — to deal with that," says Johnston. "It would be a terrible thing for any employer to not be compliant with the law… And they won't be if they are not given enough time to become compliant." "When you see a tower crane, that guy could literally just have a joint and go to work… There's nothing that actually says he has broken the safety rules, which is insane." Norm Keith, Fasken

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