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New MOL consultations target workplace violence

By Mari-Len De Guzman
| www.cos-mag.com

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has released a consultation paper discussing the issues of workplace violence with the possibility of amending the Occupational Health and Safety Act to clarify or enhance requirements pertaining to violence prevention in the workplace.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has released a consultation paperdiscussing the issues of workplace violence with the possibility ofamending the Occupational Health and Safety Act to clarify or enhancerequirements pertaining to violence prevention in the workplace.

In its consultation paper, the ministry said that despite a general duty clause in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) that requires an employer to take reasonable precautions to protect the worker, the Ontario legislation currently has no explicit requirements concerning workplace violence.

“Despite the current protections under the OHSA, issues have been raised by individuals, groups and by coroner's inquests that suggest it is timely to review the requirements under the OHSA that pertain to workplace violence and to assess whether these requirements should be clarified or enhanced,” the paper said.

The consultation period runs from September 17 to October 17, 2008. Employers, the labour sector and the general public are encouraged to provide comments during this consultation period.

Clients, customers and other members of the public are the most likely people to commit violence against workers, according to the Ministry of Labour. Health care, social services, retail, education, transportation, police, security agencies, correctional services and hospitality sectors have higher risks of workplace violence than other sectors.

In a recent interview with COS, Ontario Labour Minister Brad Duguid said recommendations resulting from various inquests and his meetings with the nursing community and the labour community are currently under consideration. However, the minister did not say at the interview whether an amendment to the OHSA was part of the recommendations being considered.

“Health and safety of workers is a priority. Every employer has the responsibility to protect the health and safety of workers and that extends to violence,” Duguid said.

Meanwhile in the Ontario Legislature, a bill has been introduced last December to amend the current OHSA to include specific provision on workplace violence prevention. The private members bill, introduced by MPP Andrea Horwath in December, already passed first reading.

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