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Workplace Violence: What is it, and how can you prevent it?

Workplace violence is anything that causes someone to feel that they are at risk of harm including, but not limited to, threatening behaviour, verbal or written threats, harassment, verbal abuse and physical attacks. The definition of workplace is not only the traditional workspace; it can be work-related events (trade shows, conferences), work social events, clients’ homes, or events that happen away from work but result from work – for example, a threatening call from a client to an employee’s home. 

A workplace violence risk assessment is a requirement of your Occupational Health and Safety program. Doing a risk assessment allows you to break down potential hazards, prioritise the level of risk and put best practices in place to prevent future incidents. The risk assessment should be done in consultation with the employer, management, employees, and the OH&S representative/committee. 

Hazards and Risks: Assessing your business 

A hazard is a thing/condition/substance/behavior, and the risk is the likelihood that the hazard will cause injury or disease. For example, if you're walking down a road the hazard would be getting hit by a car. The risk would be greater on a busy city street than on a quiet country road.

First you have to identify the hazard(s):

  • Look at all aspects of the business.
  • Review previous accident/incident reports.
  • Interview employees or conduct a survey.
  • Inspect the workplace. 

Take into consideration:

  • The nature of the work activities.
  • The working conditions.
  • The design of the work activities and environment.
  • The frequency of situations. 

Risk factors can include:

  • Working with the public.
  • Working with volatile or unstable persons.
  • Premises where alcohol is served,.
  • Handling money, valuables or prescription drugs.
  • Providing care, service advice or education.
  • Working alone. 

Risk = Probability x Severity



The goal of creating this assessment is to help you identify risk, and prioritise which hazards need to be dealt with first, and either eliminate the risk, or work to reduce it. 

Preventing violence in the workplace is an essential practice that will give you, your employees and clients piece of mind. 

Do you need a workplace violence assessment guide or prevention policy? CFIB members can contact their Business Counsellor.

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