Mental Stress, Workplace Violence, Harassment Top Issues for Teachers
November 7, 2012
Mental stress, workplace violence, and workplace harassment are now the biggest health and safety issues affecting Ontario’s 76,000 elementary teachers and educational professionals, according to a survey conducted for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO). The data was obtained from a survey of 72 presidents of ETFO locals conducted in late June by James Matsui Research Inc.
More than three-quarters (77%) of all local presidents identified mental stress in the workplace as a great or major concern affecting their members, followed by workplace violence (64%), and workplace harassment (51%). These percentages are even higher in remote and rural areas. In comparison, heat stress, indoor air quality, and asbestos were great or major concerns for one in four local presidents.
The survey comes as the Mental Health Commission of Canada prepares to release a voluntary standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace.
“We will be encouraging our locals to discuss the new standard with their boards as part of strategies to reduce stress in the workplace,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “For example, our survey indicates that many school boards in the province are falling short in their duties to deal with workplace violence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Education Act. What could be more stressful for a teacher than dealing with violence while trying to educate students?”
Almost half of the ETFO respondents say their school boards have neither effective workplace violence programs nor adequate training for principals and staff dealing with workplace violence. Many boards have provided inadequate information on people with a history of violence, information that could help protect teachers.
“Teachers work hard and love the work they do. But there are far greater demands on them in terms of student needs and behaviour than ever before,” added Hammond.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario represents 76,000 elementary public school teachers and education professionals across the province and is the largest teacher federation in Canada.