WorkSafeNB is reminding New Brunswick employers that legislation intended to protect workers from violence and harassment becomes effective April 1.
The regulatory changes to the Occupational Heath and Safety Act define harassment and violence as workplace hazards that affect health and safety, including sexual violence and harassment, domestic violence and intimate partner violence.
"Harassment and violence of any kind are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated," said Douglas Jones, president and CEO of WorkSafeNB. “WorkSafeNB is committed to ensuring that all New Brunswick workplaces are free from harassment and violence and these new regulations are an important piece in accomplishing that goal. They are an extension of the health and safety measures all workplaces should embrace and we’re pleased to see them come into effect.”
The recent case of a Moncton nurse who suffered a concussion, broken nose and two black eyes after being assaulted by a patient’s husband points to the legislation’s necessity.
“For more than a decade, NBNU (New Brunswick Nurses’ Union) has strongly advocated for the effective prevention of workplace violence. Violence is not part of the job,” said Paula Doucet, union president. “(But) a legislative change will not eliminate workplace violence. It will take a long-term commitment from unions, associations, employers, government, employees and the general public to work collaboratively to educate their members, employees and themselves to understand that any form of workplace violence or harassment is unacceptable.”
Under the amended legislation, all employers are required to develop and implement a written code of practice to prevent workplace harassment. All employers must also conduct a risk assessment to analyze the likelihood of violence in their workplace. Once the risk assessment is completed, several factors determine whether an employer must also develop and implement a written code of practice to prevent violence.
“We know that legislation alone can't fix this problem, but it is an important step,” said Jones. “It sends a strong message to New Brunswickers: we hear you, we support you, and we will not allow workplace harassment or violence of any kind to be tolerated."