In July 2012, the Policy Division of WorkSafe BC circulated a discussion paper entitled “New Occupational Health and Safety Policies on Workplace Bullying and Harassment”. The intent of the discussion paper is to seek consultation on new OH&S policies on bullying and harassment that the Board is developing and intends to implement. The tie to the new Section 5.1 in Bill 14, which deals with worker compensation claims involving a mental disorder, is that the legislation specifically recognizes bullying or harassment as a “significant work-related stressor”.
The proposed policy defines “bullying and harassment” as follows:
(a) includes any inappropriate vexatious conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated, offended or intimidated, but
(b) excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment.
The proposed policy is based on the underlying premise that bullying and harassment is a workplace hazard. As such, the policy adopts the workplace hazard risk assessment approach as it already exists in the BC Violence in the Workplace regulations. With respect to the employer’s duties to address workplace bullying and harassment, the proposed policy identifies the following steps which the Board considers to be reasonable:
(a) performing a risk assessment considering a number of factors;
(b) developing and implementing written policies, procedures and work environment arrangements to eliminate, where possible, or otherwise minimize the risks to workers from bullying and harassment;
(c) developing and implementing procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace bullying and harassment;
(d) reviewing the policy, procedures and work environment arrangements periodically;
(e) investigating and documenting complaints or incidents of bullying and harassment;
(f) taking necessary corrective action to eliminate, where possible, or otherwise, minimize the risks of workplace bullying and harassment;
(g) informing workers who may be exposed to the risk factors of workplace bullying and harassment of the nature and extent of the risk;
(h) providing instruction to workers who may be exposed to the risk of bullying and harassment; and
(i) ensuring that workers reporting an adverse symptom, illness or injury as a result of bullying and harassment are advised to consult a physician of the worker’s choice for treatment or referral.
The proposed policies also address supervisor duties and worker duties with respect to workplace bullying and harassment. Once implemented, these new OH&S policies will apply to any BC employer who falls within the provincial legislative jurisdiction.
Consultation with respect to the discussion paper is currently continuing to September 28, 2012. The Board’s discussion paper can be accessed here.