The brutal murder of Lori Dupont, a nurse at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor, Ont., sent shockwaves through the community and the province. In 2005, she was fatally stabbed by her former lover, Marc Daniel, an anaesthesiologist at the hospital, during what would be her final shift.

Dupont's murder was an extreme case, but sadly, workplace violence is not uncommon. According to Statistics Canada, 17% of reported violent incidences happen in the workplace, while 33% of those occur in the healthcare or social services sectors.

To increase the safety and protection of workers, the Ontario government has introduced legislation that will significantly impact workplaces in the province. Bill 168 amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act, taking the law one step further to specifically prohibit workplace violence and harassment. The legislation makes a statement that workplace violence and harassment and the spillover effects of domestic violence are occupational health and safety issues simply by virtue of their inclusion in the Act.

Under the Act, workplace violence is defined as the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, physical force on an employee in the workplace, leading to physical injury or the potential for physical injury to that worker. Workplace harassment is defined as a course of unwelcome vexatious comments or conduct in the workplace.

On June 15, employers will be required to put in place a Workplace Violence Prevention Program that includes a policy, risk assessment, education/training and a reporting/evaluation process dealing with workplace violence, harassment and domestic violence.

Abuse stop sign imageTo comply with the new requirements, UHN is reviewing its current workplace violence policy and procedure. In the coming weeks, we will be conducting a workplace violence environmental assessment to identify areas of risk related to violence and harassment. We will also be conducting an employee survey to gauge how safe employees feel at work and what safety concerns they may have. This confidential survey will provide UHN's Workplace Violence Prevention Committee and Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees with invaluable information to evaluate our current policy and procedures and make improvements. Look out for the survey in the weeks ahead.

UHN's Workplace Violence Prevention Committee, formed five years ago, has done a great deal of work in this area already, so we have the "infrastructure" in place to effectively meet the requirements of the new law. As we take steps toward compliance, we will keep employees informed of any changes to UHN's workplace violence policy and program.

UHN is committed to providing all employees, physicians, students, and volunteers with a safe workplace. We have a zero-tolerance policy that strictly prohibits any and all forms of assault, abuse and harassment.

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