Creating Safe Workplaces and Learning Environments

PSHSA is actively collaborating with the Education Sector to address Workplace Violence in the school community. As part of the Ministry of Labour’s mandate to reduce and eliminate violence in the workplace, PSHSA engaged stakeholders in consultations in two Discovery Workshops within the Education Sector in 2016. The workshops focused on key stakeholders that were directly at risk and or impacted by workplace violence incidents as well as a shared understanding of stakeholder’s respective needs in the prevention of workplace violence in the school community. As part of this process, PSHSA reviewed leading practices and identified prevention strategies in intervention priorities.

We ask ourselves: “Should anyone be expected to be a victim of physical violence at work?” The answer to this is clearly “no.”  And as The Minister of Labour, the Honourable Kevin Flynn states in his recent response to this prevalent issue, “our schools must be safe, inclusive and welcoming places – not only for students and their families, but for the entire school community.”  

As a result of the recent focus on workplace violence in the education sector and the gaps identified in the Discovery Workshops, PSHSA is spearheading the development and piloting of prioritized tools and solutions to assist in addressing violence, supporting vulnerable workers, as well as integrated service delivery. The selection and prioritization of these tools were based on the following criteria established by employer and worker members of the school community: 

  • Impact on Culture / maximum impact / overall effectiveness in reduction of injuries 
  • Time and Cost 
  • Legislated 
  • Sustainability and Longevity 
  • Addresses Both Student and Staff Safety as Equally Important 
  • Buy-in/practical (“Practical and not theoretical”)  
  • Easy to use 
  • Measurability/can measure impact on reducing injuries to workers related to violence in schools (trends/Provincial impacts) 
  • Changes culture and perception

Based on the selection criteria, PSHSA is developing the following resources with key stakeholders’ direct input and subject matter expertise:

  • A Reporting/Risk Assessment Tool specific to the School Community – to assist schools and workers in reporting risk factors and threats associated with violence 
  • Workplace Violence Prevention Guide – to assist and inform school leadership and staff about preventing and reducing workplace violence within schools. 
  • Student Transfer Checklist/Resource – a list of high level student information that transfers with a student for those workers involved with the student.

There is no quick fix solution to prevent or reduce violence against workers in the education sector. The quest for a solution must be system-wide, address school and school board culture, and be embraced by all parties. The process, undertaken to obtain input, has shown there is a wealth of knowledge, experience and creativity in place within the Education sector to improve current practices.

By working together, we gain a full commitment to transform Ontario school environments into the safest learning and working environments. 

For Additional Information 

If you have any questions, suggestions about these initiatives or related information to share, please contact Kim Litchfield, Executive Director, Education, Culture and Training at klitchfield@pshsa.ca 

Ministry of Labour & Ministry of Education Initiatives

Ontario’s teachers, education professionals and staff are entitled to a safe working environment. The Ministry of Education has established the Provincial Working Group on Health and Safety with a mandate to “strive to facilitate health and safety excellence”. The Working Group has served as a forum for hard work and collaboration among partners, all focused on the common goal of ensuring our schools are safe places to learn and to work.. As noted by the Ministers in a letter to the Provincial Working Group the MOL will be working closely with the Working Group to develop sector-specific MOL guidance materials for Ontario’s public funded schools to be finalized and published during the 2017/18 school year. PSHSA is a member of the secretariat who will support the development of the legislative guidance document and related tools.

Workplace Violence is a real issue in our schools

Based on reported incidents, teachers and education assistants are the most impacted group (see below). However, during stakeholder consultations, contributors identified that all staff in a school including office staff, principals/vice principals, maintenance staff, and drivers as a few examples are at risk and also experience or witness violence against their co-workers. As a result, PSHSA is focusing on building resources that will assist all education staff in a school.

Highest Count of Workplace Violence Events in PSHSA Occupations (2014)

Occupations# LTIs% WV LTIs
Elementary and Secondary School Teacher Assistants27115%
Police Officers (Except Commissioned)25914%
Nurse Aides and Orderlies 23413%
Community and Social Service Workers 19611%
Registered Nurses1488%
Correctional Service Officers1418%
Elementary School and Kindergarten Teachers875%
Registered Nursing Assistants (RPNs)824%
Bus Drivers and Subway and Other Transit Operators 643%
Secondary School Teachers332%
All Others 33718%
Total1,852
Data source: WSIB EIW Claim Cost Analysis Schema, June 2015 data snapshot.  

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) has released results of a comprehensive member survey on violence in the classroom.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), Workplace violence in schools – Asking the Right Questions and Protecting ourselves – Personal Protective Equipment and EAs

PSHSA is developing a risk assessment toolkit that addresses a school environment with a scheduled release in the fall 2017. If assistance is needed in the meantime, you can access our current general workplace risk assessment tool.

Applying a Culture Lens

Most of the feedback received about gaps and needs during our discover workshops, as well as the interventions and strategies that were identified as being effective for reducing or preventing violence, are aligned with elements of organizational climate and culture. PSHSA has conducted organizational health and safety climate assessments in other public sector organizations and has found that using a systematic approach to assessing climate is a valuable tool for influencing positive change.   

Below are the elements of a health a safety climate that are based on validated research and have been used by PSHSA.  

Management Commitment  
Communication 
Priority of Safety 
Safety Rules and Procedures 
Supportive Environment 
Involvement 
Personal Priorities and Need for Safety  
Personal Appreciation of Risk 
Physical Work Environment 
Training and Competence  
Cooperation
Management Style 
Managing Change 
Shared Values 
Systems Compliance  
Accidents and Incidents 
Safe Behaviours

The feedback received for this initiative to date aligns with many of the elements of a health and safety climate shown above. Below are examples of the input provided in the discovery phase and how it aligns with a few of the health and safety climate elements.  

Examples of Input Aligned with Health and Safety Climate Elements

  • Communication – Standardized information about the student needs to be communicated with/provided to staff about the risks, and triggers. 
  • Priority of Safety – For those working at the school level, adapting the belief and practice that “safety trumps everything” was cited as an overarching need. 
  • Safety Rules and Procedures – Consistent messaging needs to be used when reporting and following protocols (i.e. Safe Schools: Reporting and Responding resource) to effectively deal with students, parents and community.  
  • Involvement – Employees and parents need to work together and share information, strategies and best practices.  
  • Cooperation – A change of attitude between all parties and greater understanding of the needs to ensure all levels work together internally and externally.  
  • Competence and Training – Awareness and de-escalation training should be provided to all those involved with students.   
  • Accidents and Incidents – There is a need to develop better, more accessible and inclusive tools for prevention, responding, and reporting.

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