The language in this section is part of the Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention (HVP) – 949-1-IPG-104 regulations. Please note that these regulations only apply to workers in the federal sector. However, this is a useful checklist, regardless of the jurisdiction.
Risk factors – workplace violence and harassment
There are various risk factors that may contribute to workplace harassment and violence. Some of these risk factors include: client characteristics, physical work environment, work activity/culture, job factors, and other external factors. Below are some examples of risk factors.
Client (Third Party) characteristics
Working with clients that exhibit certain characteristics can put employees at greater risk of harassment and violence. This can include working with:
- Members of the public who are frustrated with the system, in shock, or angry for example, clients (or their relatives) who may lash out at the closest person.
- Clients who have a history of violence.
- Clients who are unable to control their behavior because of mental health conditions, emotional disorders, or a brain injury (such as resulting from a concussion, etc.).
- Clients who have racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, or otherwise discriminatory attitudes and/or behavior.
- Clients who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Physical work environment
Certain work environments and workplace designs can result in additional risks that may lead to harassment and violence. This can include:
- Working alone, in small numbers or in isolated or low-traffic areas (for example, isolated reception area, washrooms, storage areas, utility rooms).
- Working in community-based settings (for example, home visitors).
- Having a mobile workplace.
- Working in an area that has poor visibility of clients.
- Working in an area that is cramped, requiring employees to work in close proximity to other employees or clients.
- Working in an environment with high noise levels.
- Working without required personal protective equipment.
- Working with the public.
- Handling money, prescription medication or items of significant value.
- Working with unstable or volatile persons (for instance, criminal justice system employees who work with inmates).
- Working on premises where alcohol is served.
- Working in an environment that tolerates or promotes racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, or otherwise discriminatory attitudes and behaviours.
- Working in an environment that is not diverse or there are very few persons from groups covered under human rights legislation.
- Working in an environment where power is misused or abused.
Aspects specific to a job, such as the mental and physical demands of the job, can result in additional hazards that may lead to harassment and violence. This can include, working in an environment where there is:
- Limited control over how work is done.
- Excessive workload or inadequate resources to complete work.
- Unreasonable or tight deadlines leading to high stress.
- Confusing, conflicting or unclear job or roles.
- Limited job security.
- Limited or inadequate training and resources.
- Working during periods of intense organizational change (for example, strikes, privatization, restructuring, downsizing).
Other external or internal factors
Other external factors that may result in harassment and violence include:
- Family or domestic violence, such as a family member or (ex) partner:
- threatening an employee or co-workers either verbally or over the phone/email
- stalking the employee
- verbally abusing the employee or co-workers
- destroying the employee or organization’s property
- physically harming the employee and/or co-workers
- inadequate training on harassment and violence prevention, including the employer’s workplace harassment and violence prevention policy