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Preventing Workplace Violence for Lone Workers

Worker safety laws are in place to prevent workplace violence and protect lone workers. Workplace violence is on the rise. To prevent workplace violence your company will need a team of HR and Operations Executives to manage the cause.

According to the Canadian Labour Code, "Work place violence" is "any action, conduct, threat or gesture of a person towards an employee in their work place that can reasonably be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that employee." This can be violence by another employee or a non-employee.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety defines the factors, situations, times, and locations, where risk of workplace violence is higher:

  • Working with the public.
  • Handling money, valuables or prescription drugs (e.g. cashiers, pharmacists).
  • Carrying out inspection or enforcement duties (e.g. government employees).
  • Providing service, care, advice or education (e.g. health care staff, teachers).
  • Working with unstable or volatile persons (e.g. social services, or criminal justice system employees).
  • Working in premises where alcohol is served (e.g. food and beverage staff).
  • Working alone, in small numbers (e.g. store clerks, real estate agents), or in isolated or low traffic areas (e.g. washrooms, storage areas, utility rooms).
  • Working in community-based settings (e.g. nurses, social workers and other home visitors).
  • Having a mobile workplace (e.g. taxicab).
  • Working during periods of intense organizational change (e.g. strikes, downsizing).

Risk of violence may be greater at certain times of the day, night or year; For example,

  • late hours of the night or early hours of the morning
  • tax return season
  • overdue utility bill cut-off dates
  • during the holidays
  • pay days
  • report cards or parent interviews
  • performance appraisals

Risk of violence may increase depending on the geographic location of the workplace; for example,

  • near buildings or businesses that are at risk of violent crime (e.g. bars, banks)
  • in areas isolated from other buildings or structures

Workplace violence is a lone worker’s worst nightmare and an employer’s worst thought. Ensuring worker safety is everyone’s job – it truly takes a team to prevent workplace violence.

  • In 2004, 24% of workplace violence incidents were sexual assaults. 93% of victims of sexual offences in Canada were female. (Sources: Criminal Victimization in the Workplace. Statistics Canada, 2004 and Sexual Assault in Canada. Statistics Canada, 2004 and 2007.)
  • Recent Canadian Statistics are difficult to find, but in the United States, the Insurance Information Network reports there are six million serious threats, two million assaults and 650 homicides reported each year on the job. Two-thirds of those were preceded by behavioral red flags.
  • Statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show that an average of 20 employees are murdered each week in the U.S., and around 18,000 workers are victims of non-fatal on-the-job violence every week.

Paragraph 125(1)(z.16) of the Canada Labour Code requires employers under federal jurisdiction to "take the prescribed steps to prevent and protect against violence in the work place". Part XX of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, "Violence Prevention in the Work Place", contains the prescribed steps that must be implemented.

The Government of Canada Guide to Violence Prevention in the Workplace defines the following steps:

Step 1: Establish the framework for consultation with and the participation of the policy committee or, if there is no policy committee, the work place committee or the health and safety representative.

Step 2: Develop and post at a place accessible to all employees a work place violence prevention policy.

Step 3: Identify all factors that contribute to work place violence, taking into account 20.4(a) to (f) of Part XX of the Regulations entitled Violence Prevention in the Work Place.

Step 4: Assess the potential for work place violence using the factors in 20.4 and taking into account 20.5(1) of Part XX of the Regulations entitled Violence Prevention in the Work Place.

Step 5a: Implement systematic controls as soon as practicable, but not later than 90 days after assessment to eliminate or minimize the risk of work place violence.

Step 5b: Establish and implement procedures for follow-up maintenance of corrective measures, including measures to respond to unforeseen risk of work place violence.

Step 6: Review the effectiveness of the work place violence prevention measures and update them whenever there is a change that compromises the effectiveness of those measures, but at least every three years.

SoloProtect provides an effective way for employers to provide measures to respond to unforseen risk of work place violence. Unfortunately not all work place violence can be prevented. Having SoloProtect enables the threatened worker to discreetly send a Red Alert alarm to signal for help and the device automatically records 30 seconds of audio to be used by SecurTek and law enforcement when responding to the situation. This recording also provides valuable audio evidence of the violence after the fact.

It takes a team of highly aware personnel to prevent workplace violence. Assessing the risks of your workplace is crucial to worker safety. Review any history of job-related violence in your own workplace, and evaluate similar places of employment for a history of violence.

  • Consult incident reports and health and safety committee and first-aid records
  • Ask employees if they are concerned for others or for themselves
  • Assess your workplace for violent risk factors
  • Inspect your workplace for any practices that may lead to violence
  • Collect information related to violence in your industry
  • Seek advice from local security experts

Contrary to what many believe, the majority of on-the-job violent attacks come from strangers intent upon committing a crime rather than other employees “going postal”. According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, “most workplace homicides are committed by robbers trying to steal from the business, not by current or former employees.” Workers who deal with the public in any capacity are most likely to be targets of this type of workplace violence.

How can you be a part of the team and prevent workplace violence?

Employers: Train your workers how to recognize and respond to risky environments and threatening situations. Provide clear examples of workplace violence and what they should watch for. Give lone workers an effective, comprehensive means of protecting themselves in emergency situations, and make sure they are trained in its use.

Employees: Be mindful of your environment. Take care to follow safety guidelines set up by your employer. Notice and care for your co-workers. Watch for signs of violence and report any suspicious activity. Learn how to use safety devices and when to employ safety protocol.

If you are part of a safety committee, identify and correct work safety hazards. Keep your workplace informed of new information, issues, and solutions. Demonstrate and discuss, and practice and review drills and safety procedures.

Teams that are effective in preventing workplace violence are focused on the same safety mission, work together toward the same goal, cooperate with and depend upon one another to identify risks and follow safety procedures and communicate well.

Ensuring each worker – lone or in-house – returns home safely at the end of the day is your safety team’s most important responsibility. SoloProtect allows you to do just that. We know it takes a team to prevent workplace violence. SoloProtect is on your team.