Building your Workplace Violence Program

Workplace Violence Prevention Overview

Violence and harassment in the workplace can affect all business sectors and occupations. Customers, clients, patients, students, workers, intimate partners, or family members may hurt, threaten, or harass workers while they are on the job. This can have negative effects on the personal well-being of workers and their interpersonal relationships, both within and outside the workplace.

If these behaviours are allowed to continue, the work environment and quality of care may suffer. As workers become more anxious, they may become less productive and less committed to their work, regardless of whether they are the target of the abuse.

Failure to address these inappropriate or unacceptable behaviours also has financial consequences. The workplace may experience an increase in workers’ lost time from work, an increase in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board costs, or an increase in medical or healthcare expenses. Employers may also face lawsuits or other legal action. Violence and harassment in the workplace are part of a continuum of behaviours and can be interconnected. Employers need to protect workers against violent acts and threats of violence, and create an atmosphere in which workers feel free to come forward with concerns or complaints.1

Acts of aggression and violence can be committed by anyone. This includes employees, supervisors, managers, clients (patients, residents, customers), students, contract workers, visitors, families of clients, families or friends of employees, or intruders. They can also occur outside of work settings, at work-related functions or at off-site locations such as conferences, social events, or client homes visits, or take the form of threatening telephone calls from co-workers, clients or managers.2

To help distinguish the sources of workplace violence, PSHSA uses these four categories:

(External Perpetrator):

The violent person has no relationship to the worker or workplace.


The violent person is a client at the workplace who becomes violent towards a worker or another client.

(Employment Related):

The violent person is a worker or has / had some type of job-related involvement with the workplace.

(Domestic Violence):

The violent person has a personal relationship with an employee or client.

5 Steps to Building Your Workplace Violence Prevention Program

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers in Ontario to assess the risks of workplace violence, and to put in place a policy and prevention program. For more information on legislative requirement refer to the PSHSA Fast Fact WORKPLACE VIOLENCE: COMPLYING WITH THE OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY ACT.
To assist in developing a comprehensive program, PSHSA has developed a five step process.

These 5 steps will assist you in building a meaningful, cohesive and multifaceted approach for Workplace Violence Prevention that drives results and sustainability.

  1. Securing senior management commitment and employee involvement
  2. Assessing your program needs
  3. Developing the program components
  4. Implementing the program (communication, marketing and education)
  5. Evaluating the program

Additional tools and resources will be added to these 5 steps as they are developed by PSHSA and/or the Leadership Table. (Subscribe for our PSHSA e-Newsletter to be alerted when updates are made)

1. Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario (OHSCO) Workplace Violence Prevention Series – Developing Workplace Violence and Harassment Policies and Programs: What Employers Need to Know;
2. PSHSA – A guide to the Development of a Workplace Violence Prevention Program: Implementing the Program in your Workplace.