Workplace violence is the threatened, attempted, or actual exercise of physical force by a person that causes, or is likely to cause, an injury to a worker. It is also a threatening statement made or any conduct engaged in by a person that gives a worker reasonable cause to believe that the worker is at risk of injury. (See Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, Part 1 – General, section 1.02.). Violence can cause physical and psychological injuries.

What’s a hazard?

A hazard is something that may expose a person to a risk of injury, this includes violence. Some hazards are more obvious than others. Below are some examples of violence hazards that could lead to injury. Which could occur in your workplace? Are there any others that may be relevant in your workplace?

Forms of violence may include:

  • threatening behaviour
  • verbal or written threats
  • verbal abuse
  • harassment
  • sexual abuse or statements
  • poisoned work environment
  • bullying behaviour
  • cyberbullying
  • domestic violence in the workplace
  • physical attacks

What are some risk factors associated with violence in the workplace?

Risk is the likelihood that someone will be harmed if they are exposed to a hazard. Most instances of workplace violence are predictable and preventable if hazards are identified and steps are taken to mitigate the risks.

Below are some risk factors that could increase the likelihood of an injury from violence. Which of these risk factors is relevant to your workplace? Can you think of others that may be relevant in your workplace?

Risk factors include:

  • working alone or in small groups
  • working in isolated locations
  • working with the public
  • handling money or valuables, including drugs, liquor, or tobacco
  • working at night or early in the morning
  • working in public buildings or areas

What are the possible effects?

For individuals, the effects can include:

  • minor or serious physical or psychological injuries
  • temporary or permanent physical disability
  • shock, anxiety, and psychological trauma

For organizations, the effects can include:

  • low morale
  • increased job stress
  • increased absenteeism and turnover
  • reduced trust of management and co-workers
  • a hostile working environment

What can be done to prevent violence in the workplace?

Required by law:

  • employers must do hazard assessments to identify what kinds of hazards, including violence hazards, are present in their workplaces
  • workplaces must have a violence and harassment prevention policy and procedures in place
  • employers must train workers on their violence and harassment prevention policy and procedures
  • procedures must explain how to make a complaint, investigate a complaint, and share investigation results
  • reporting procedures must say how to make a complaint of violence to someone other than the employer, if a worker has a complaint against their employer
  • workers must take all necessary precautions to ensure their own health and safety and that of everyone else in the workplace, including preventing workplace violence
  • workers must report immediately to their supervisor any situation they have reason to believe would present a hazard, including violence hazards
  • workers must report any accident or injury that results from their work
  • employers must take measures to eliminate or control the risks of hazards, including violence hazards, identified in their workplace
  • employers must have procedures in place to let affected workers know what supports are available, for example, employee assistance programs, peer support programs, or community resources like counselling or mental health services

Additional controls:

Specific actions may be considered based on the hazard assessment in your workplace. For example:

  • scheduling to avoid leaving workers alone
  • procedures to restrict access to money and higher-value objects
  • check-in procedures
  • monitored security systems
  • emergency response buttons
  • guest sign-in procedures
  • design elements like lighting, lines of sight, or barriers
  • de-escalation
  • training

If you are exposed to workplace violence:

  • follow your organization’s emergency plan if immediate assistance is required
  • follow the organization’s incident reporting procedures
  • report and record all incidents
  • report to your supervisor

More information:

If you have more questions or concerns about preventing workplace violence, please contact:

  • Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, 867-667-5450 or 1-800-661-0443 or
  • Yukon Human Rights Commission, 867-667-6226

Article Contributed by Yukon Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board