workplace violence and harassment

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers in Ontario to assess the risks of workplace violence and develop policies and programs towards eliminating violence and harassment in their workplaces.

IHSA has developed resources to help employers prepare a workplace violence and harassment policy and create a program to implement this policy (see Workplace Violence and Harassment Toolkit below).

Racial discrimination in the workplace is a form of harassment. Racial discrimination is any action, intentional or not, that singles out people based on their race and causes them to be treated differently. IHSA has also developed resources to help employers prevent and deal with incidents of discrimination in the workplace (see Racial Discrimination Resources below).


What is workplace violence?

The Occupational Health and Safety Act defines workplace violence as,

  • The exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker,
  • An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker,
  • A statement or behaviour that is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.

Workplace violence includes threatened, attempted, or actual behaviour of a person that causes or is likely to cause physical injury to an employee in the workplace. Examples include:

  • Physical attacks such as kicking, hitting, pushing
  • Verbal or written threats that express an intent to harm
  • Threatening behaviour such as shaking fists, or destroying property

What is workplace harassment?

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, workplace harassment means engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Workplace harassment or bullying is persistent or excessive negative behaviour towards a worker in the workplace. It includes:

  • Engaging in verbal abuse (e.g., yelling, name calling, making threats)
  • Belittling a worker's opinions
  • Spreading malicious rumours
  • Undermining or sabotaging a worker's work
  • Deliberately ignoring or excluding a worker (i.e., silent treatment)

Bill 168 - Workplace Violence and Harassment

On June 15, 2010, new legislation dealing with workplace violence and harassment in the workplace came into effect. This legislation is meant to protect workers from incidents of workplace violence and harassment. It sets out specific duties and requirements for employers, including transportation, construction and utility industry employers.

The amendments to Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act include definitions of workplace violence and harassment directed towards a worker from any person, including clients, co-workers, friends, current or former family members, and strangers. They also extend workers' right to refuse work if they believe that they are at risk of physical injury due to possible workplace violence.

In addition, all employers will have to:

  • prepare policies on workplace violence and harassment and develop and maintain programs to implement them;
  • assess the risks of workplace violence based on the nature of the workplace and type of work, and develop measures and procedures to control them;
  • if aware of potential for domestic violence, take reasonable precautions to protect workers who are at risk of physical injury;
  • alert certain workers to the risk of workplace violence from persons with a history of violent behaviour.

The information provided is meant to help industry employers understand the requirements of this legislation and assist them with the development of their workplace violence and harassment prevention policy and programs.


Violence and Harassment in the Workplace Toolkit

This toolkit has been developed to assist industry employers with the development of their company-specific violence and harassment prevention programs.


What's in the Toolkit?

This toolkit contains general information on the workplace violence and harassment legislation, as well as, guidelines, sample policies and checklists that can be used to develop a company-specific violence and harassment policy and program.


Who can use the Toolkit?

This toolkit was developed primarily to assist employers in Ontario's Transportation, Utility and Construction sectors.

Workplaces that are subject to federal labour legislation should consult federal publications for support in meeting those specific obligations.


How to use the Toolkit.

  • Click to open the toolkit web page, "Workplace Violence and Harassment: What should the employer do?"
  • Review the information provided on the page.
  • Open the documents associated with each section by clicking on the section title or the links underneath.

Workplace Violence and Harassment Resources

Links to other workplace violence and harassment resources:



Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD)


Racial Discrimination Resources



External Resources


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