OHS Canada Magazine

Preventing bullying, harassment a priority for WorkSafeBC in 2022

Last year, WorkSafeBC responded to 931 complaints of bullying and harassment


(zinkevych/Adobe Stock)

Last year in British Columbia, WorkSafeBC received more than 3,400 enquiries related to bullying and harassment and responded to 931 specific complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Of these enquiries, 17 per cent came from the health care sector; 10 per cent from hospitality; eight per cent from construction; and eight per cent from the retail industry.

What it looks like

Bullying and harassment in the workplace can take many forms, WorkSafeBC said in a press release. Examples of behaviour or comments that might constitute bullying and harassment include verbal aggression, personal attacks, and other intimidating or humiliating behaviours.

While bullying and harassment can occur between workers and between workers and management, bullying and harassment of workers can also occur by customers, clients, and other members of the public.

“Workplace bullying and harassment can have far-reaching impacts on a worker’s psychological health and safety — it can lead to anxiety, depression, absenteeism, and lower productivity,” says Al Johnson, Head of Prevention Services with WorkSafeBC. “No one should be subject to bullying and harassment at work.”

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Psychological impact increases chance of other injuries

The psychological impact of bullying and harassment can also cause distraction and poor judgement, which increases the risk of other workplace injuries.

As part of its 2022 initiatives, WorkSafeBC will be focusing resources on conducting education, consultation, and enforcement activities around workplace bullying, harassment, and prohibited action.

The Bullying, Harassment and Prohibited Action Initiative will address all industries, but there will be a stronger focus on: small businesses, which may have more limited resources; vulnerable industry sectors (e.g., those with young workers or high job insecurity); and industries with a large number of complaints submitted to WorkSafeBC.

As part of this initiative, WorkSafeBC’s focus in 2022 will be:

  • Promoting employer compliance to prevent and minimize bullying and harassment, including employers having effective policies, procedures, and training in place.
  • Providing prompt responses to complaints of prohibited action, in which an employer penalizes a worker for raising a health and safety issue at work.
  • Ensuring employer responses to workplace harassment are fair and impartial (including investigating and implementing preventative and corrective measures.)
  • Responding to complaints of inadequate harassment procedures or inadequate responses to harassment by employers.
  • Conducting targeted outreach and inspections for employers in the hospitality, retail, and small business sectors.

In addition, WorkSafeBC said it will look at harassment prevention in the health care, construction, and agricultural sectors.

“The goal of our initiative is simple — we want to ensure that employers meet their obligations to keep workers healthy and safe and free from bullying and harassment in the workplace. We are also focused on providing employers and workers with information on how to appropriately respond to harassment in the workplace,” says Johnson.

WorkSafeBC’s role in bullying and harassment is to ensure employers have the proper policies, procedures, and training in place to address bullying and harassment, and that complaints are investigated and addressed, it said.