Workplace violence in school boards: A guide to the law
Read this guide for a better understanding of the law and how it applies to workplace violence in schools.
This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply the law based on the facts in the workplace.
Note: This is an update to the version created in 2018. The current version was updated in 2023 to reflect policy and legislative changes.
The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development acknowledge and thank the following organizations for providing representatives from the Provincial Working Group on Health and Safety who shared their expertise and made this guide possible:
- Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’Ontario (ACÉPO)
- Association des directions et directions adjointes des écoles franco-ontariennes (ADFO)
- Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO)
- Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC)
- Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
- Catholic Principals’ Council Ontario (CPCO)
- Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)
- Ontario Council of Educational Workers (OCEW)
- Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA)
- Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)
- Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC)
- Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA)
- Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF)
- Education Workers’ Alliance of Ontario (EWAO)
The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development also thanks the Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) for its contributions.
Everyone has the right to work and learn in a safe environment. In June 2017, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development and the Ministry of Education committed to work with the stakeholders in the education sector, through the Provincial Working Group Health and Safety, to make workplace violence prevention a priority. The goal is to collaborate in shifting the culture in Ontario’s publicly funded school boards to further enhance safe working and learning environments.
The Resource Working Group, a subcommittee of the Provincial Working Group Health and Safety, has developed this guide to help workplace parties understand the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) workplace violence requirements to protect the health and safety of workers in all school board workplaces (e.g., board offices, schools, non-traditional classrooms, etc.). This guide provides leading practices for developing violence prevention policies and procedures, the assessment and re-assessment of the risks of workplace violence, the reporting of violent incidents, and the sharing of information with workers so they may recognize and be protected from workplace violence.
This document provides clear and concise information to help workplace parties in Ontario’s provincially publicly funded school boards to:
- understand their legislative responsibilities under the OHSA in the context of other legislation, policies, and procedures when developing and maintaining a workplace violence policy and program (Refer to Appendix B for additional resources and information)
- identify and remedy potential gaps in their workplace violence policy and program
- develop measures and procedures to protect workers from workplace violence by providing leading practice guidance
- provide information and instruction to protect workers from workplace violence; and
- promote a strong commitment to advance a safety culture for preventing workplace violence
Working together we can address workplace violence in provincially publicly funded school boards and further advance a culture of health and safety. Ontario schools should be places where everyone – children, students, workers, parents and the community – feels welcome, safe and respected. A safe, inclusive and accepting school environment is essential for student and worker well-being and achievement.
We encourage all workplace parties to use this guide to assist them in understanding their responsibilities and duties to comply with the OHSA in the context of schools and its legal and policy environment.
A Workplace Violence Policy and Program Sample Checklist can be found in Appendix A.
In this document, “school board” refers to the “employer” and includes school boards and school authorities. A small number of schools are governed by “school authorities” which manage schools offered through hospitals and treatment, custody and correctional facilities, as well as schools in remote and sparsely populated regions. (e.g. an interim vice-principal).
A “supervisor” is a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker [OHSA s. 1 (1)]. This may include a principal or designate.
A “workplace” is any land, premises, location or thing, upon, in or near which a worker works [OHSA s. 1 (1)]. For the purpose of this document, examples include a school board office, a school, a classroom, a non-traditional setting, a field trip location, a school bus, or any other place a worker performs work for the school board.
“Workplace parties” refers to those working in provincially publicly funded school board workplaces, including all workers of the school board as well as union and education association representatives.