injury can be just as serious, harmful and permanent as a
We are a society driven by concrete thought, relying heav-ily
on our senses to indicate right and wrong or if a situa-tion
seems safe or a bit “off.” How do we foster a positive
workplace culture, reinforced by the understanding of what
is and is not appropriate and acceptable from the perspec-tive
of the organization, employees, customers, vendors and
volunteers? How do we successfully approach and resolve
situations and work to create an environment in which we
can eliminate violence and bullying and harassment? Think
about the following situations and what you might do.
• A manager alternates work locations with an employee
who just returned from maternity leave. The manager
is overheard making derogatory comments and is seen
putting the baby’s pictures into the garbage bin.
• An older volunteer makes inappropriate comments to a
younger volunteer, making them feel uncomfortable.
• Unknowingly overheard by the staff, a warehouse
manager makes advances toward a delivery driver.
• Friends who become colleagues have a personal falling
out that starts to impact work projects and customers,
with each blaming the other.
• A disagreement between co-workers becomes so
violent that hospitalization is required. Staff that
witnessed the incident are not sure what to do, who to
talk to or where to turn for support.
• A long-tenured senior team lead takes over a
colleague’s computer after they stepped away for a
minute, sending out inappropriate, company-wide
emails under their colleague’s name.
• The aftermath of the ever-old holiday party
shenanigans that seemed harmless at the time but not
so much the following Monday.
Like most other things in life, these situations exist on a
spectrum from what appears to be ordinary behaviour like
“harmless” office gossip, to criticism to intimidation to racism
to outright physical intimidation or harm. In an insightful
Canadian Occupational Safety magazine article called
“9 Health and Safety Trends for 2019,” Dave Rebbit wrote:
“In those provinces that have made bullying and
harassment a workplace hazard, it is rapidly becoming
the #1 issue for regulators to deal with. That should
put it on everyone’s radar. Regulators are handing out
orders to employers to investigate harassment com-plaints
and conduct hazard assessments, put programs
in place and provide necessary training.
… North American workplaces tend to prize those
who are driven, can accomplish goals and get others
to work harder. While those attributes exist in every
leader, they also describe bullies. There is a big dif-ference,
but it is sometimes hard to see. Addressing
these issues will challenge all safety people in the
Determining the safety of a workplace is a fairly well-established
process. However, determining the mental
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