Workplace Violence

This page is intended to provide general guidance to PETL members.  For support with specific issues, please contact the Local.

What is Workplace Violence?

Workplace violence is defined as any of the following:

  • the exercise of physical force against a worker, that causes or could cause physical injury (for example a bite, scratch, hit, kick, push, hit with an object, hair pulling)
  • the attempt to exercise physical force that could cause physical injury (for example, someone throws an object at you that could hurt you, but you are able to move out of the way it time)
  • a statement or behaviour that a worker could reasonably interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, that could cause physical injury to the worker

The Importance of Reporting – It’s Not Optional

Reporting workplace violence is required by law.  The Ontario Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) requires that workers must report to their supervisors “the existence of any hazard of which he or she knows.”  This duty to report also includes workplace violence.  When workplace violence involves a student, the Keeping Our Kids Safe At School Act(Bill 157) legally obligates teachers and other school employees to report using the Safe Schools Incident Report form.  Additionally, the Peel District School Board’s Workplace Violence Procedure also states that workers have the responsibility to immediately notify their supervisor of any incident of workplace violence.

Reporting improves safety for all.  When an incident of workplace violence is reported, the principal (supervisor) must investigate and deal with the incident.  The principal and school board must meet their obligation under the OHSA to “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker” and will follow Board procedures to control the risks of workplace violence that have been identified.  Reporting also allows the school board and PETL (through the PETL/PEOT Violent Incident Report) to gather information about the extent and nature of such incidents and develop strategies to improve the safety of teachers and other workers in all of our schools

What forms do I need to complete?

After the violent incident is over and you are safe, it is important that you report the incident.  You will need to fill out at least 2 forms, possibly 3.  Click on the graphic below for guidance in determining which forms need to be filled out.

Does the person need to intend to hurt the worker for an incident to be considered workplace violence?

No.  The ability to make reasonable judgement prior to acting is not a factor in the definition of workplace violence.

The Ministry of Labour has this to say on the issue:

“For workplace violence to occur, a person must apply or attempt to apply physical force against a worker. However, he or she does not need to have the capacity to appreciate these actions could cause physical harm. For example, a person may have a medical condition that causes them to act out physically in response to a stimulus in their environment. This would still be considered workplace violence.

In addition, workplace violence would include situations where two non-workers, patients for example, are fighting and a worker could be injured when he or she intervenes. The non-workers may not have intended their violence to spill over to anyone else, but they used physical force, which could ultimately cause physical injury to a worker.

Employers would be expected to take these situations into account when assessing the risks of workplace violence and when dealing with incidents. They would be required to establish measures and procedures to protect workers from this type of behaviour.”

Of course, accidental situations – such as someone tripping and as a result pushing a worker – are not meant to be included.


How does Workplace Violence relate to Safe Schools Incident Reporting?

The “Keeping Our Kids Safe At School Act” (Bill 157), makes teachers and other school board employees legally obligated to report student incidents and activities where suspension or expulsion must be considered by the principal.  These serious student incidents include violent incidents, and when these violent actions are directed at a worker it is an occurrence of workplace violence.

Submitting the Safe Schools Incident Reporting Form does not necessarily result in suspension or expulsion.  It is the principal’s role to investigate the incident; to determine what further actions may be required, taking into consideration mitigating factors and progressive discipline; and to communicate the results of that investigation to the teacher who made that report.

Special Education or identified students are NOT EXEMPT from these reporting requirements.  Teachers are legally obligated to complete the Safe schools Incident Report to report incidents involving any student.


What If I Feel That More Needs To Be Done?

Your safety is important.  Speak with your principal about what additional measures can be put in place to protect you.  Contact the Local for support.

If incidents of workplace violence continue to happen, please continue to report every incident.

ETFO has come out with a handout: Addressing Violence in the Workplace

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