Violence in the Workplace Regulations : NS Labour and Advanced Education, Health and Safety

The Violence in the Workplace Regulations make it clear that workplace violence is an occupational health and safety issue. Following the consultative process and further feedback, the regulations established the line of accountability for workplace violence prevention. The Regulations reinforce the duty employers have under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take reasonable precautions to ensure the health and safety of persons at or near a workplace, and outline the process to be followed in addressing workplace violence in industry sectors where the problem is most acute.

The following is a brief overview of the regulations and the Act.

In order to allow time for employers to put measures in place, the Regulations are being phased in. They allow six months for the completion of a violence risk assessment and a year for the establishment and subsequent implementation of a violence prevention plan, including a training programme for employees.

The Regulations do not displace obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Under the Act, employees are required to take reasonable precautions to protect their own health and safety and that of other persons at or near the workplace.

The Act includes the duty to report those things in workplaces considered to be a danger to an employees’ health and safety or others at the workplace, to a supervisor, a safety committee, or safety representative if one is appointed.

Employees are responsible for:

  • practising safe work practices and procedures
  • participating in training to manage or prevent such hazards and risks and
  • reporting such hazards or risks to the employer.

Employers have the responsibility to:

  • make themselves familiar with workplace safety hazards and risks
  • take steps to make employees aware of such hazards and risks
  • provide protection from hazards and risks, and
  • provide appropriate training.

These duties, which are stated in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, are part of the Internal Responsibility System, where everyone within an organization has direct responsibility for health and safety, while doing what they are expected to do.

The Regulations build on this internal responsibility system. Persons concerned with the workplace such as contractors, constructors, suppliers, employees, owners or self employed persons, all have a duty to report all incidents of violence in the workplace to the employer.

(For more information on this and upcoming consultations on the Internal Responsibility System, please refer to the Department website at

The main components of the Regulations are:

  • workplaces to which the Regulations are applicable
  • the conduct of violence risk assessments
  • implementation of a violence prevention plan
  • a workplace violence prevention statement
  • the provision of information and training for employees
  • reporting of incidents of violence
  • documentation, investigation and actions to be taken to prevent reoccurrence
  • dealing with employees affected by violence
  • dealing with multiple workplaces and the collective compliance with the Regulations
  • the definition of violence

The government’s strategy and Regulations defines workplace violence as any of the following:

  1. threats, including a threatening statement or threatening behaviour that gives an employee reasonable cause to believe that the employee is at risk for physical injury,
  2. conduct or attempted conduct of a person that endangers the physical health or physical safety of an employee.

This definition was chosen so that we can implement a strategy that will reduce violent incidents in workplaces most at risk and which targets our resources where the need is greatest.

Malicious gossip and other forms of intimidation are serious issues, but they are difficult to investigate and enforce. Addressing them would overtax resources and delay progress on the violence issue.

We believe our best chance for moving forward is focussing on behaviours that are having a measurable impact and are known to be doing the most harm - physical assaults.