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For those of you following the progress of Bill 168, which proposes to add explicit protections for employees against workplace violence and harassment, you will know that one of the trickier elements of the Bill is the requirement that employers perform a risk assessment of the workplace. The purpose of this assessment is to determine if any parts of the employer’s operation are vulnerable to acts of violence. Unfortunately, in its current form, the Bill does not explain how such an assessment is to be done.
I had a conversation with a client just last week that provided a great example of the kind of potential risk that an employer might uncover through an assessment. This client is a retailer, and operates out of several malls. On occasion, members of the public have come into the store and have been difficult to deal with. Some have been overly aggressive. Even more rarely, members of the public have behaved in a violent fashion in the presence of staff. Luckily, to date, this violence has been directed at the store itself, i.e. knocked down and smashed merchandise, not the employees.
When I was reviewing this situation with the client, they mentioned that they did not know how many of these incidents had occurred and which stores were more susceptible to customers behaving this way. Most importantly, the client indicated that they did not have emergency security buttons in the store, they did not have an established security protocol, nor did they train their employees to know what to do if there was an act of violence or a threat of violence.
I suspect this is not an uncommon situation for many businesses. I plan to review this situation with my client in anticipation of the Bill coming into law. For those of you struggling with how to approach an assessment, these types of incidents might be a good place to start.