Bill 168 Protects Educational Personnel from Violence and Harassment in the Workplace
Effective June 15, 2010 you will have better health and safety protections in your workplace because of recent amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The revised Act requires school boards to take a variety of measures designed to protect you from violence and harassment in the workplace, whether this violence and harassment originates from students, parents, co-workers or other members of the school community, or domestic violence which follows you into the workplace.
Bill 168 Provisions
While the changes brought about by Bill 168 are many, in the education context there are several key changes:
Disclosure of Information about Persons with Violent History
School boards are now required to provide information, including personal information, to a worker about a person with a history of violent behaviour. This applies to students with a violent history. This disclosure requirement will be triggered if the worker could be expected to encounter the person in the course of his/her work, and the risk of workplace violence is likely to expose the worker to physical injury. School boards are not permitted to disclose more than is reasonably necessary to protect the worker from physical injury.
From ETFO’s perspective, worker safety takes priority. There are no clear rules yet about how this type of sensitive information will be disclosed, but it is clear that it must be disclosed.
The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work
Section 43 of the OHSA grants workers the right to refuse unsafe work. Bill 168 amends this provision by adding that workers may refuse to work, or do particular work, “where workplace violence is likely to endanger himself or herself”. However, teachers may only exercise this work refusal if their students are not in jeopardy. This means that students cannot be left unsupervised, and alternative supervision should be arranged in the case of a work refusal.
Summary and Checklist
Bill 168 provides you with important new rights, and recognition that you have the right to be protected from harassment and violence. Checklist for ensuring compliance by your school board:
For further information contact your local ETFO president or Professional Relations staff in Protective Services at 416-962-3836 or 1-888-838-3836.