Safety In the Workplace: a Growing Concern

All employers and workers should be concerned about safety in the workplace. Workplace safety covers a number of areas relating not only to the actual physical environment, but to other workplace hazards such as harassment.

Safety in the workplace, is governed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This includes provisions governing an employee's right to be aware of hazards pertaining to equipment, substances, working conditions and processes.

These provisions also give employees the right to get involved in finding and solving workplace health and safety concerns. In addition, employees can also refuse to work in unsafe conditions.

As well as hazards in the physical workplace, there are also hazards from colleagues. Many Canadian employees suffer from bullying and harassment, violence and sexual harassment in the workplace. All of these affect workplace safety and all of them are illegal.


Violence in the Workplace

Workplace Violence includes assault, intimidation, threats and acts of abuse. This may take the form of:

  • written threats
  • verbal threats
  • bullying
  • intimidation
  • property destruction
  • physical attacks,  and more.

Vandalism, theft, sabotage, murder, rape and arson are also included.

As long as they take place in a work setting, even if this is away from the regular office, they are included under this heading.

Workplace Harassment

Harassment may include many forms of objectionable behaviour, such as touching, pushing, jokes, name calling, and interfering with work. In addition, there is sexual harassment, which may include sexual remarks and requesting sexual favours in return for job security. Harassment may include an abuse of authority.

Harassment is covered by Canadian national and provincial human rights laws, which also include provisions on discrimination. The Canadian Labour Code and the Criminal Code of Canada also contain provision relating to harassment. All of these laws can help to ensure your safety in your workplace.

It is important to keep a record of occurrences of harassment or times when you think your safety might be at risk. This is a first step in sorting out the problem. Your employer should have a procedure in place for ensuring that there is workplace safety, and for dealing with health and safety, or harassment issues. In the first instance, this is the procedure you should follow.

If your concerns are not adequately addressed, then you can file a complaint with your local human rights board for harassment issues, or consult a lawyer if you think it is necessary.

These issues do not go away if you don't challenge them, so take the necessary steps to improve your safety in the workplace.