OH&S Policies on Workplace Bullying and Harassment

In July 2012, the Policy Division ofWorkSafe BC circulated a discussion paper entitled “New Occupational Health andSafety Policies on Workplace Bullying and Harassment”. The intent of the discussionpaper is to seek consultation on new OH&S policies on bullying andharassment that the Board is developing and intends to implement. The tie tothe new Section 5.1 in Bill 14, which deals with worker compensation claimsinvolving a mental disorder, is that the legislation specifically recognizesbullying or harassment as a “significant work-related stressor”.

The proposed policy defines “bullying andharassment” as follows:

(a) includes anyinappropriate vexatious conduct or comment by a person towards a worker thatthe person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to behumiliated, offended or intimidated, but

(b) excludes any reasonableaction taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management anddirection of workers or the place of employment.

The proposed policy is based on theunderlying premise that bullying and harassment is a workplace hazard. As such,the policy adopts the workplace hazard risk assessment approach as it alreadyexists in the BC Violence in the Workplace regulations. With respect to the employer’sduties to address workplace bullying and harassment, the proposed policyidentifies the following steps which the Board considers to be reasonable:

(a) performing a risk assessmentconsidering a number of factors;

(b) developing and implementingwritten policies, procedures and work environment arrangements to eliminate,where possible, or otherwise minimize the risks to workers from bullying andharassment;

(c) developing and implementingprocedures for workers to report incidents of workplace bullying andharassment;

(d) reviewing the policy, proceduresand work environment arrangements periodically;

(e) investigating and documentingcomplaints or incidents of bullying and harassment;

(f) taking necessary correctiveaction to eliminate, where possible, or otherwise, minimize the risks ofworkplace bullying and harassment;

(g) informing workers who may beexposed to the risk factors of workplace bullying and harassment of the natureand extent of the risk;

(h) providing instruction to workerswho may be exposed to the risk of bullying and harassment; and

(i) ensuring that workers reportingan adverse symptom, illness or injury as a result of bullying and harassmentare advised to consult a physician of the worker’s choice for treatment orreferral.

The proposed policies also address supervisorduties and worker duties with respect to workplace bullying and harassment.Once implemented, these new OH&S policies will apply to any BC employer whofalls within the provincial legislative jurisdiction.

Consultation with respect to the discussionpaper is currently continuing to September 28, 2012. The Board’s discussion papercan be accessed here.