Workplace Violence: Have You Done Enough?

Workplace violence is defined in the Saskatchewan Occupational Health & Safety Regulations as

the attempted, threatened or actual conduct of a person that causes or is likely to cause injury and includes any threatening statement or behaviour that gives a worker reasonable cause to believe that the worker is at risk of injury.  37(1).

This means that even the threat of violence is classified as workplace violence.  In addition, threatening behaviour also meets the threshold of workplace violence.  Workplace violence is more than physical assault.  This wide definition means that all workplaces are at risk. Since, as an employer, you have a general duty to keep your workers safe, this area is very relevant to all workplaces.

So how do you know if you have done enough?  Saskatchewan legislation requires a Policy Statement and outlines what must be included.  Remember, as with all policies and other safety guidelines, this must be readily available to all workers and revised every three years or whenever a change may affect workers’ health or safety.  The best practice is to review your process every year to ensure your workers continue to be, and to feel, safe.

The Policy Statement must include:

  • The employer’s commitment to minimize or eliminate the risk.

  • The employer’s commitment to providing training for workers that includes:

    • How to recognize potentially violent situations

    • All hazard controls in place to minimize or eliminate the risk to workers

    • The appropriate response of workers to incidents of violence, including how to get help

    • Procedures for reporting violent incidents

  • The identification of where violent situations have occurred or could occur and the staffing positions that may be affected.

  • A procedure for the employer to alert workers of the nature and extent of risk from violence in their positions.

  • What actions will the employer take to reduce or eliminate the risk, such as engineering or administrative controls, or personal protective equipment

  • Instructions for a worker who was exposed to a violent incident (including the requirement to report the incident to the employer)

  • The investigation procedure to be followed after an incident is reported

  • Recommendation to workers who have been exposed to a violent incident to see their doctor for treatment or referral to counselling

Start with a Hazard Assessment

This assessment should be conducted in consultation with your OH&S Committee.  Consider:

  • Hazards posed by the physical environment (layout, furniture placements, barriers)

    • Lighting

    • Ease of entry/exit

    • Neighbourhood/area/neighbors

    • Building setup (is it a shared building? Two stories? Basement?)

  • Hazards posed by the nature of the work

    • Handling cash

    • Working alone

    • Protecting valuables

    • Interacting with public

    • Interactions with potentially violent people

  • History of violence in the workplace or in similar workplaces

  • Workforce itself

    • Young workers or other vulnerable groups

    • Survey of workers – do they feel threatened by violence?

Implement Controls

Appropriate controls will depend on what you find in your hazard assessment.  Consider:

  • Engineering Controls

    • Physical barriers such as bulletproof glass

    • Repositioning a sales counter so it is visible to other employees and/or the public

    • Locks, buzzer system, key card entry

    • Minimize the number of entries/exits

    • Security cameras, alarm systems

    • Adequate exterior lighting

  • Administrative Controls

    • Safe work procedures – how to do the jobs safely

    • Reduce available cash (drop safes and a low amount in the register)

    • Varying the time of day cash drops are made, or another movement of cash occurs

    • Buddy systems or check-in procedures for those working alone

    • Check the credentials of clients (if possible)

    • Regular security checks and sweeps

  • Personal Protective Equipment

    • Bulletproof vests

    • Emergency communications equipment

Train Workers


  • New workers through orientation

  • Refresher training at least once a year

  • If changes occur (to the nature of the risks or to your prevention plan)

  • Following an incident


  • How to recognize potentially violent situations

  • All hazard controls in place to minimize or eliminate the risk

  • The appropriate response to incidents of violence, including how to get help

  • Procedures for reporting violent incidents

As with all training, a record must be kept of your workplace violence training.  To demonstrate competence, ensure workers can demonstrate what they know through practical demonstrations or a test/quiz.

Follow Up After an Incident

  • The worker reports the incident

  • Follow the procedure for investigating

  • Provide support to victims

  • Discipline workers who commit acts or threats of violence

  • Changes to the procedure and/or retraining if necessary

Monitor your System

Is your violence prevention system working? Consider:

  • Inspection reports

  • Incident reports and investigations

  • Data on violence in similar workplaces

  • Observations from workers and/or the OH&S Committee

A great system on paper is not going to keep your workers safe if it is not being actively implemented.  Monitoring your system will ensure that what you have in place is working and you are doing your part as the employer to keep your workers safe.

For More Information:

Government of Saskatchewan – Preventing Violence in the Workplace

CCOHS Violence in the Workplace

OHS Insider – Compliance Audit Gameplan: Are You Doing Enough To Prevent Workplace Violence?

WorkSafe Saskatchewan – Workplace Violence & Acts of Aggression

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