Violence against workers is a real and complex issue in Ontario schools.
Based on WSIB long-term disability claims, workers in education represent 25% of all public sector workplace violence related claims. The majority of these claims are made by teachers and education assistants (EAs), however all workers in schools can be affected by workplace violence, including office workers, principals and vice principals, maintenance staff, and bus drivers.
In addition to the workplace violence claims data, we have heard many first-hand accounts of violent incidents in schools, and why addressing workplace violence can be challenging. We have heard how it can be difficult to report a violent incident as the worker may feel bad for the student, or dismiss the severity of the incident because the student is young. We have heard that some reports of workplace violence are not taken seriously by the employer, and the worker may not feel supported. We have also heard that there is a general lack of communication regarding the risk of workplace violence in schools.
To assist the education sector in understanding and adhering to their responsibilities and legislative requirements as they relate to workplace violence, PSHSA has focused its efforts over the past year and a half to develop tools and resources to help school boards, schools and education workers with the prevention and reduction of violent incidents.
What We Did
The first step was to understand the problem and the barriers that education workers and school boards are facing with respect to workplace violence. We started by engaging with education workers, labour representatives and school board health and safety experts, holding what we called discovery sessions to clearly identify the challenges and opportunities.
We then put in place a Leadership Work Group which consisted of representatives from across Ontario’s education sector to gain stakeholders’ perspectives on what was needed and what tools could be of use. We also worked with this group to identify existing resources and how these could be used as a good starting point to develop tools for use across the system. It cannot be stressed enough how important it was to have this dedicated group in place to provide us with input and guide our work. We could not have moved forward without their leadership and assistance and thank them for their commitment to this important project.
With input from the Leadership Work Group and our education partners, PSHSA was able to develop Workplace Violence Risk Assessment Toolkit for the Education Sector (School Boards).
This comprehensive toolkit contains collective advice and input with practical tools for implementation. While not mandatory, school boards are able to use these tools and adjust them as needed for their particular requirements. The toolkit consists of the following:
Behaviours Observed Checklist: This time-saving tool is intended for front-line education workers to use when identifying unusual or worrisome behaviours in students, co-workers and other persons on the premises. Violence Risk Assessment Tool: This tool is designed to help recognize potential risks of workplace violence in education settings, and offers possible measures and procedures for addressing the identified risks. Safety Alert Summary: This tool provides ‘in the office’ information about the triggers and actions to be aware of and avoid for workers who do not work directly with the specific student (e.g., itinerant or substitute teacher).
Based on feedback received thus far, we expect this toolkit to be a valuable resource for schools and school boards as they look to reduce and prevent incidents of workplace violence.
The complete Toolkit, including fillable PDF versions of each tool, is available from PSHSA as a free download. The tools are currently available in English and are in the process of being translated into French. French versions will be posted as soon as they are available.
The Toolkit is also a valuable and practical resource to supplement and support the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education’s Guide to the Law.
How We Can Help
PSHSA Consultants are able to assist in responding to Ministry of Labour orders for Workplace Violence Risk Assessments and Reassessments, and/or to complete site-based Workplace Violence Risk Assessments and Reassessments.
PSHSA is also in the process of organizing regionally-based Community of Practice workshops for school board staff. In these sessions, workshop participants will have the opportunity to apply their specific situations and circumstances while learning how to use PSHSA’s Workplace Violence Risk Assessment Toolkit in their local school board setting. These workshops will facilitate the sharing of solutions to common challenges amongst participants and participating organizations.
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