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Feds add workplace violence to OHS law

By Mari-Len De Guzman
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Provisions for the prevention of workplace violence will soon be part of the federal occupational health and safety regulation, according to Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

Blackburn made the announcement at the Canadian launch of the North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week in Ottawa on May 5th.

Provisions for the prevention of workplace violence will soon bepart of the federal occupational health and safety regulation,according to Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour and Minister ofthe Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

Blackburnmade the announcement at the Canadian launch of the North AmericanOccupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week in Ottawa on May 5th.

The new OHS provision “will clearly define workplace violence and employers will have to prevent and protect against bullying, teasing and abusive behaviour,” Blackburn said.

“Employers will have to develop policies to prevent workplace violence and provide training for workers in all aspects of violence prevention,” he added. [a href="http://www.cos-mag.com/index.php/component/option,com_seyret/Itemid,105/id,8/task,videodirectlink/" target="_blank"]

[Watch the COS coverage of the NAOSH Week launch]

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The workplace violence provision will be introduced this spring, Blackburn said.

Held at the National Arts Centre, the NAOSH Week launch was led by the Canadian Society of Safety Engineers (CSSE), with various speakers from the labour and safety fields, including Workplace Safety and Insurance Board chair Steve Mahoney, Len Hong, president and CEO of the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), Rosemarie Leclair, president and CEO at Hydro Ottawa, and Shirley Hickman, executive director of Threads of Life, a not-for-profit organization helping families cope with workplace injuries and fatalities.

Sandra Lawson, acting regional director for the Ontario Ministry of Labour and Christine Fortuna of CSST in Quebec also delivered their messages for the event.

Representatives from Canada’s southern neighbours were also at the event, including Bud Locklear, senior economic analyst at the U.S. Embassy, and David Needham, division director of safety, health and environmental management for the U.S. Department of State, who talked about his organization’s health and safety programs.

Citing the NAOSH Week theme, Start Today, Live it Everyday, CSSE president Eldeen Pozniak stressed the importance of partnerships for information and idea sharing in advancing workplace safety.

Resonating at the event was the need to extend safety awareness, not just in the workplace, but also in employees’ homes and their personal lives. That is what safety culture is all about, the speakers said.

“We all need reminders to talk about safety (all the time) and not just during NAOSH Week,” says CCOHS’s Hong. “Leadership is best demonstrated by thoughtful and urgent action.”

As far as reducing lost-time injuries, Ontario is making progress, Mahoney said, citing the close to 24 per cent reduction in lost-time injury in the last four years. He added that despite some complaints his office had been receiving about the WSIB's series of TV ads depicting graphic workplace incidents, an Ipsos Reid survey he had commissioned showed 78 per cent awareness of the campaign.

Mahoney says the media campaign may have played a role in successfully reducing lost-time injury rates, but the awareness campaign doesn't seem to be having an effect on the fatality rate, yet. Workplace fatalities have remained at a constant rate over the past years.

Mahoney acknowledges achieving significant improvements in workplace fatality rate may be more of a long-term endeavour, and that the government and industry just needs to carry on the effort.

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