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Workplace Violence

Preventing and Responding to Workplace Violence


University Violence Prevention Statement

Dalhousie University operates in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations thereunder, including the Violence in the Workplace Regulations.

Physical violence in the workplace is a rare but serious occupational health and safety hazard that may cause physical and emotional harm. All members of the University are responsible for creating and maintaining a violence-free environment. The University views any acts of violence or threats of violence in the workplace as unacceptable. It is committed to minimizing and, to the extent possible, eliminating the risk of violence in the workplace, and to responding appropriately if workplace violence does occur.

Application and Scope

This Policy applies to employees while engaged in an activity under the auspices of Dalhousie University.

This Policy outlines procedures for preventing, reporting, investigating and responding to violence or threats of violence in the workplace.

Dalhousie University has separate policies on sexual harassment and personal harassment, and complaints of this nature should be addressed in accordance with the provisions of Dalhousie University’s “Sexual Harassment Policy” and “Personal Harassment Policy”, respectively. Harassment based on any of the characteristics protected by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act is considered a form of discrimination and should be addressed in accordance with Dalhousie’s “Statement on Prohibited Discrimination”.

This Policy is administered by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

Definitions

In this policy:

  • Administrative Head” means the Deans, Vice Presidents, and the President, as appropriate. An Administrative Head may delegate his or her authority and responsibilities under this Policy to those responsible for the units under the Administrative Head’s control.
  • employee” means all University employees, individuals who hold a University academic appointment and individuals engaged to work on research projects.
  • violence” means any of the following:
    • threats, including a threatening statement or threatening behaviour that gives an employee reasonable cause to believe that the employee is at risk of physical injury,
    • conduct or attempted conduct of a person that endangers the physical health or physical safety of an employee;

Some examples of violence include shaking of fists, destroying property, throwing of objects, expression of intent to inflict harm, hitting and other acts of physical assault, robbery and arson.

workplace violence” or “violence in the workplace” means any act of violence against an employee while the employee is engaged in an activity under the auspices of Dalhousie University.

Policy & Procedures

General

Administrative Heads must confirm with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety to whom they delegate their authority and responsibilities under this Policy.

In carrying out their responsibilities under this Policy, Administrative Heads or designate may consult with the University Environmental Health and Safety Office, the University Environmental Health and Safety Committee, their Department or Divisional Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee or safety representative, if one exists, employees within their authority and/or other appropriate University resource persons.

Preventing Workplace Violence

Conducting a Workplace Violence Risk Assessment

Administrative Heads or designate must complete a Workplace Violence Risk Assessment to evaluate the risk of violence to employees within his or her authority. The Workplace Violence Risk Assessment Form, as may be amended from time to time, is attached to this Policy as Schedule A. When carrying out Workplace Violence Risk Assessments, Administrative Heads or designate should consider factors including, but not limited to:

  • Past incidents of violence: within their workplace or similar workplaces, the nature of the violence, how it was addressed, the impacts of the violence;
  • The physical layout of the workplace, for example: open work spaces, closed offices, counters or kiosks to provide service, separation of public versus private areas, proximity to other employees;
  • Workplace organization and practices, for example: handling money and other valuables, dealing with people in distress, working hours, working alone during regular hours and after hours, access to phones;
  • Security procedures and practices, for example: sign-in/out systems, PIN security access systems, notifying Security Services if working late, locking internal and external doors, door bells and peepholes in doors, use of Security Services/Tiger Patrol (phone 6400), use of alarm systems;
  • Location of the workplace within the University and larger community, for example: buildings or workplaces that are isolated, buildings in downtown areas that may have a higher number of non-University visitors.

The Administrative Head or designate must conduct a new Workplace Violence Risk Assessment for each facility or activity for which they are responsible:

  • at least every 5 years;
  • where the Administrative Head or designate becomes aware of a type of violence occurring in similar workplaces that was not considered when the existing Workplace Violence Risk Assessments was conducted;
  • when there is a significant change in any of the following:
    • the circumstances in which work takes place,
    • the interactions that occur in the course of performing work,
    • the physical location or layout of the workplace (ex: renovations or new construction); or
    • when the Administrative Head or designate is instructed to do so by the President of the University or designate.

Administrative Heads will retain one copy of completed Workplace Violence Risk Assessments. Copies must be provided to the University Environmental Health and Safety Office and the University Environmental Health and Safety Committee.

Preparing a Violence Prevention Plan

Where the Workplace Violence Risk Assessment indicates that one or more significant risks of violence exists, the Administrative Head or designate must prepare a Violence Prevention Plan to address those significant risks. A sample Violence Prevention Plan, as may be amended from time to time, is attached as Schedule B.

As part of the Violence Prevention Plan, the Administrative Head or designate must:

  • take and document reasonable measures to lessen, and where possible, eliminate the risk of violence; and
  • provide training to employees who are exposed to a significant risk of violence regarding:
    • employee rights and responsibilities with respect to workplace violence;
    • the type of violence and the amount of risk they may encounter;
    • the steps taken to minimize or eliminate the risk of violence to the employee being trained;
    • recognizing potentially violent situations and how to respond to them; and
    • reporting, documenting and investigating incidents of violence.

Where a significant risk of violence is posed by an individual, the extent of personal information disclosed to an employee must be balanced against the privacy rights of the individual. This determination should be made in consultation with University Legal Counsel.

Administrative Heads or designate should ensure employees under their authority who are not exposed to a significant risk of violence, receive or have received general training regarding the following issues:

  • employee rights and responsibilities with respect to workplace violence;
  • recognizing potentially violent situations and how to respond to them; and
  • reporting, documenting and investigating incidents of violence.

Training regarding all aspects of this Policy will be provided by Employee and Organizational Development (EOD). Requests for training can be made to EOD (494-8886, EOD@dal.ca).

Administrative Heads will retain one copy of the completed Violence Prevention Plan. Copies must be provided to the University Environmental Health and Safety Office and the University Environmental Health and Safety Committee.

Reporting and Investigating Incidents of Workplace Violence

General

In general, employees are responsible for being familiar with:

  • Emergency procedures;
  • Evacuation routes in their workplaces; and
  • The location and function of security systems in their workplaces.

Reporting emergencies

Employees who witness threats of violence, assaults or other violent incidents that indicate an emergency must report this, as soon as it is safe to do so, to Security Services at 494-4109 and, as soon as possible thereafter, to their supervisor.

Reporting non-emergencies

Non-managerial employees who witness threatening statements or behaviour that provide them with reasonable grounds to believe that there is the potential for workplace violence must report this immediately to their supervisor.

Employees in managerial roles who witness threatening statements or behaviour that provide them with reasonable grounds to believe that there is the potential for workplace violence must report this immediately to the Director of Security Services or designate, at 494-6400.

Any person who receives a report of potential workplace violence will contact the Director of Security Services or designate, at 494-6400.

Investigation

All reports of incidents or potential incidents of workplace violence will be investigated. The form of any investigation will depend largely on the circumstances and may involve Security Services, Human Resources, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, employees and other individuals involved, and, as appropriate, external law enforcement agencies.

If an investigation discloses that an incident or potential incident of workplace violence occurred, the matter will be dealt with in accordance with applicable University rules and regulations or collective agreements/handbooks.

Support Services

If an incident of workplace violence results in physical injury, emergency services will be made available. In cases where other support services may be necessary, including, but not limited to, treatment or counseling, the Administrative Head or designate will consult with Human Resources and the Environmental Health and Safety Office, as appropriate.

No Retaliation

No person shall retaliate against another for bringing forward, in good faith, an incident or potential incident of workplace violence or for providing information in respect of an incident or potential incident of workplace violence. Retaliation will be dealt with as a disciplinary matter in accordance with relevant University rules and regulations, or applicable collective agreements/handbooks.

Review

This Policy will be reviewed within two years of receiving approval. 

Date Issued: April 26, 2011
Approved: Ken Burt, Vice President (Finance and Administration)