OHS Canada Magazine

New toolkits assist health-care organizations in combatting violence

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November 12, 2021
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety Occupational Hygiene Health care PSHSA workplace violence

Tools intend to control risk, protect workers

Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA) has released three new workplace violence prevention toolkits to support health-care organizations as part of its ongoing work to reduce workplace violence in the health-care sector.

According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, assaults, violent acts and harassment in Ontario’s health-care sector have steadily increased over the past several years, nearly doubling from 2012 to 2019.

Workplace violence was the cause of 14 per cent of all lost-time injuries in 2019 in the health-care sector — more than the injury claims allowed for exposures to harmful substances or environments.

In 2020, while COVID-19 exposures made up the majority of lost-time injuries in health-care, workplace violence remained among the top five injury types with 993 cases.

While the risk of workplace violence is nothing new to Ontario’s healthcare workers, the pandemic has exacerbated the situation.


According to a recent province-wide poll conducted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees and SEIU Healthcare, 66per cent of the more than 2,600 registered practical nurses who participated in the study said violence toward them or their co-workers from patients or patients’ family members has increased in the last 18 months.

“Every worker in Ontario should expect a safe and healthy work environment. Health-care workers play an integral role in our communities — especially throughout the past 18 months,” said Glenn Cullen, CEO and COO at PSHSA, in a news release. “But for many, violence in the workplace has come to be considered as ‘part of the job.’ This is unacceptable. We call on all health-care organizations — hospitals, long term care, residential and home-care facilities — to establish leading practices for workplace violence prevention.”

PSHSA’s workplace-violence.ca is now home to three new workplace violence prevention toolkits — eight in total — specifically designed for implementation in health-care environments to protect health-care workers. The validated, consensus-based toolkits were built in partnership with stakeholders across Ontario’s health-care sector and are available to workplaces free of charge.

The Emergency Response (Code White) toolkit provides information and guidance for health-care employers, supervisors, workers and joint health and safety committees responsible for participating in the planning, development, implementation and evaluation of emergency control measures and procedures to effectively respond to violence in the workplace.

The Work Refusals toolkit provides information and guidance for workplace parties in the health-care sector to support their organizational response to work refusals for reasons of workplace violence. The toolkit is also a guide for healthcare workers to understand their right to refuse unsafe work due to workplace violence along with related processes.

The newest toolkit on Care Transitions provides information and best practices related to planning a course of action, gathering resources and collaborating with workplace parties and organizations to transition the care of care recipients with a risk of violence.

These three resources join the original five foundational toolkits: Workplace Violence Risk AssessmentIndividual Client Risk AssessmentRisk Communication/FlaggingSecurity Gap Analysis and Personal Safety Response System, which are currently in use within health-care settings across Canada and beyond.

“PSHSA’s workplace violence prevention toolkits have been recommended by the Joint Ministry Initiative on Preventing Workplace Violence in the Healthcare Sector”, says Henrietta Van hulle, Vice President of Client Outreach at PSHSA. “The toolkits are making a significant impact across Ontario’s health-care sector in preventing and reducing the risk of workplace violence, and we know that these new toolkits will be just as beneficial.”

An evaluation of the first five toolkits was completed to better understand their awareness, use and effectiveness among Ontario hospitals.

Findings reported that, overall, 67 per cent of Ontario’s public hospitals reported using at least one of the toolkits and, of these, 89 per cent reported improving their processes, programs and systems to prevent and manage workplace violence. Hospitals used the toolkits most often to identify safety risks, consider safety proactively in planning and validate or improve existing efforts.

The ninth and final toolkit on Incident Reporting and Investigation is expected to be released in early 2022.


Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA) is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and works with employers and workers within Ontario’s public and broader public sector, providing training, consulting and resources to reduce workplace risks and prevent occupational injuries and illnesses.


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