In Nova Scotia, employers have an obligation to make sure all workers have a safe working environment. Keeping people safe at work includes measuring and reducing the risk of workplace violence. One way to address that risk is to ensure employees are aware and prepared for any violence that they might encounter at work.
A violence risk assessment can be a valuable tool to uncover these kinds of risks. An important part of reducing violence at work is to reject violence as “just part of the job.” Employers and employees working together to identify and reduce the risk of violence can make our workplaces safer for everyone.
It is in the best interest of all employers to conduct an assessment and use best practices to avoid the impacts of violence. Some workplaces are obligated by law to carry out a workplace violence risk assessment and create a prevention plan. They include, but are not limited to: Healthcare and related workplaces, educational settings, places where correctional or security services are in use, service sector businesses where money is exchanged or liquor is sold or consumed, and other situations where employees interact with the public. To learn more about which workplaces are affected by new regulation introduced April 2007, please use the contact information provided in this booklet.
A violence risk assessment can be an integral part of a good occupational health and safety management plan that improves the health, safety, and awareness of workers. A workplace violence risk assessment:
A workplace violence risk assessment looks at each part of the workplace’s operating procedure under standard conditions. It pinpoints the situations where the risk of violence is highest. Evaluating the risk of violence in one workplace can also establish criteria to compare one operation to others who share similar activities and risks. This allows companies to compare their experiences to others in the industry sector.
The assessment should be reviewed regularly—at least every five years—or when new circumstances might introduce new or changing risks, such as serving new clients or new operations.
Before getting started, it may be helpful to take 15 minutes to review the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, free e-learning course titled “Violence in the Workplace: Awareness”.
As of June 2007, Nova Scotia Community College campuses also offer courses about how to conduct an assessment and create a violence prevention plan. A schedule of these courses will be posted on this website when it becomes available.
Sample assessment forms are available for download in pdf (PDF: 35k) format. These forms are just two examples of risk assessment outlines. You may decide to use this or an alternative format. Consider making sure that the people most at risk are represented when it is time to evaluate the risks and plan the best ways to reduce them.
If completing the form highlights opportunities to reduce the risk of violence, then the end result should be a priority list of risks that should be addressed. The next step is to decide on ways to control the risks. Once agreement is reached regarding the most effective steps to address the risks, and how to implement and communicate them, those steps become the foundation of a violence prevention plan. Risk control methods are often grouped into the following categories:
Once a plan to prevent violence is in place, it should be communicated to everyone concerned. Encourage them to take steps to reduce the likelihood and severity of violence in the workplace. Remember to complete the assessment process again regularly or whenever changes to workplace operation might affect the potential hazards or risks.
Workers must be aware of and prepared for any hazards they will face on the job, including violence. New and existing staff should be informed about the violence prevention measures that are in place, and what tools they have to effectively reduce or control those hazards.
These things can be communicated many ways, but the most effective is pre-job safety planning. The work team should identify new violence risks when they arise and the specific procedures and measures that will be used to deal with them.
Accountability and information sharing are important. Which person or team is in charge of the job task at hand? What are the reporting requirements of the team, and its supervisors? What should be reported, and to whom? What is the system to ensure that information needed to work safely is communicated quickly and effectively to everyone at risk?
Everyone has the responsibility to ensure their own safety, and that of their coworkers, on the job.
Workplace violence can affect the safety and security of every employee and business owner. It claims a high personal cost from the emotional trauma and physical injury experienced by the victims, their families, and co-workers. Taking the time to evaluate and address the risk of violence in your workplace can reduce these costs. Everyone has the responsibility to ensure a safe working environment for themselves and others.
For resources to help you conduct, communicate, and act on a workplace violence risk assessment or other workplace hazards, please contact the Occupational Health and Safety division of Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education: