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Mental Health

No Bullies Wanted in the Workplace

WorkSafeBC policies spell it out

Joe Pinto

Reprinted from "Workplace" issue of Visions Journal, 2014, 9 (3), pp. 25-26

When you think of bullying, you probably think of a schoolyard bully or a neighbourhood tyrant chasing kids down the block. But unfortunately, bullying doesn’t always end after the grad prom. Child bullies often grow up to be adult bullies, moving the intimidation out of the classroom and into the workplace. Bullying can have a devastating effect on everyone in the workplace—it’s not just the victims who suffer. It can lower productivity, cause physical illness and even increase the risk of injury. In extreme cases, bullying and harassment can lead to mental disorders: anxiety, depression and/or post-traumatic stress.

That’s why, in recent years, many employers have launched anti-bullying and harassment programs in their workplaces. And that’s why it’s now mandatory for all employers in BC to have such a program.

New anti-bullying prevention policies now in effect

On November 1, 2013, WorkSafeBC introduced three new occupational health and safety policies—one for BC’s 215,000 employers, one for supervisors and one for workers—to help prevent and address bullying and harassment in the workplace.

On November 1, 2013, WorkSafeBC introduced three new occupational health and safety policies—one for BC’s 215,000 employers, one for supervisors and one for workers—to help prevent and address bullying and harassment in the workplace.

The policies were issued under Part 3 of the Workers Compensation Act. They were introduced at the request of the provincial government, on the heels of extensive consultation with workers, employers, unions and other workplace parties.

The policies describe bullying and harassment as “any inappropriate conduct or comment toward a worker by a person who knew, or reasonably ought to have known, that it would cause the worker to be humiliated or intimidated.” The definition excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment. Besides defining bullying and harassment, the policies also clarify everyone’s role in preventing it.

What it means for employers, supervisors and workers

Employers, supervisors and workers all play an important role in bringing the policies to life. For employers, it means they must do the following:

Develop their own anti-bullying and harassment policy, and inform workers about it Develop and implement procedures for reporting and dealing with incidents and complaints Train their workers and supervisors on how to recognize potential bullying and harassment, how to respond and how to report incidents Review their policy statement and procedures activity

For supervisors and workers, it means they must comply with their employers’ policies and report any bullying or harassment they observe or experience in the workplace.

And, of course, all three groups—employers, supervisors and workers—must not engage in bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Tools for workplaces

To help workplaces apply the new policies, we at WorkSafeBC have developed an online toolkit that contains a wealth of resources—from fact sheets (in seven languages) to checklists, multimedia tools and posters.

In addition to the toolkit, we’ve developed simple templates that will help employers craft reporting procedures and anti-bullying and anti-harassment statements, and will assist them in investigating reported incidents. And, for small business owners, we’ve developed resources specific to their needs.

We offer training tools as well, in the form of PowerPoint presentations and short video animations, which employers can use for their safety meetings. And, an in-depth handbook provides details on what employers must do to meet their legal obligations.

To develop these resources, WorkSafeBC partnered with experts, as well as worker and employer groups from various industries and backgrounds, all of whom provided valuable feedback. We also searched for the best practices around the world to ensure BC’s workplaces remain at the forefront of prevention.

We’ve also introduced a team of specialized prevention officers. Through education and consultation sessions, they help employers and supervisors understand their new obligations.

Highlighting awareness and demonstrating prevention sends a strong message—that we don’t tolerate bullying or harassment. Let’s stop it in its tracks. For more information and details about accessing our anti-bullying and anti-harassment toolkit, visit

About the author

Joe is a senior program consultant at WorkSafeBC. He was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Bill 14 legislative amendments, which changed coverage for work-caused mental disorders. He continues to provide support and guidance to WorkSafeBC’s new Mental Health Claims Unit. Previously, he served as chief review officer for WorkSafeBC

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