How Employers Can Protect the Health, Safety, and Well-being of their Employees.
The term “bullying” can send most us trekking back through childhood memories to a point in time when we felt we were subjected to an episode of bullying. In recent years, society has become more educated about the impacts of bullying, which has increased public demand and pressure on bullying awareness and prevention. In the most generic terms, bullying is described as the use of superior strength to influence or intimidate someone, or to force him or her to do what one wants.
But let me ask you this, what comes to mind when you hear the term “workplace bullying”? Many of us will blink and shrug; unable to recall a time when we were bullied at work. However, just because most responses are non-committal, this does not prove that workplace bullying isn’t occurring; instead, it illustrates the lack of recognition and understanding about workplace bullying and violence.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has recently recognized this increased need for worker education and awareness of workplace bullying and violence. CCOHS considers workplace bullying to be acts or verbal comments that could ‘mentally’ hurt or isolate a person at the workplace. CCOHS goes on to say that bullying can sometimes involve negative physical contact and usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behavior that is intended to offend, humiliate or degrade a person or group of people.
Studies have indicated that the implications of bullying have a wide range of effects on both the employer and employee.
Firstly, the employer has a high price to pay when bullying occurs and is tolerated or ignored. The employer may face a great deal of serious negative consequences, including:
High turnover rates
Reduced productivity and workplace morale
High injury and illness rates
Decreased worker commitment to the organization
Poor reputation/ image of the organization
Unsurprisingly, employees subjected to bullying and violence suffer the most and these effects can leave permanent psychological damage. These impacts include, but are not limited to:
Decreased job satisfaction
Poor immunological response
High blood pressure
Post-traumatic stress disorder
So how can employers protect their workers from the hazards associated with workplace bullying and violence? The province of Alberta has recently introduced two new pieces of legislation to aid in the protection of worker health, well-being and safety. In 2009 the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code introduced Part 27; Workplace Violence and Part 2; Hazard Assessment, Elimination and Control. This legislation forces employers to protect their workers against the hazards associated with workplace violence.
Part 27 of the Alberta Health and Safety Code requires an employer to develop a policy and procedure to deal with workplace violence. This legislation also requires an employer to ensure that workers can recognize workplace violence, are aware of the organizations violence policies, procedures and other strategies that minimize or eliminate workplace violence, can initiate appropriate responses, and can report, investigate, and document incidents of workplace violence. In addition to this, part 27 requires an employer to advise affected workers to consult a health professional for treatment if that worker reports injury or other adverse effects from workplace violence or has been subjected to workplace violence.
Prior to 2009, this pivotal piece of legislation was non-existent, and there was nothing that legally enforced employers to protect their workers and prevent bullying and violence from occurring. Part 27, subsection 389 states that workplace violence is considered a “hazard” and obliges an employer to comply with Part 2 of the code; Hazard Assessment, Elimination and Control.
Simply put, an employer is legally and morally responsible for assessing the workplace for hazards associated with violence, and implementing methods to control or eliminate these hazards into their Health and Safety System. All to prevent the occurrence affecting the health, safety, and well-being of their employees.