Every employer has a vested interest in providing a safe and healthy working environment for their employees. Not only is a safe workplace imperative for employee productivity and satisfaction, employers have legal duties and obligations pursuant to provincial health and safety legislation which revolve around providing a safe workplace for employees.
Employers should not make the mistake of assuming that occupational health and safety is only relevant to those employers in work environments containing inherent safety risks, such as where employees must operate heavy machinery or work with potentially dangerous chemicals and substances. In fact, the duties imposed by occupational health and safety legislation apply to almost all employers. Even in workplaces that may appear to be relatively risk free – such as the standard office environment – employers continue to have responsibilities with respect to health and safety.
In particular, employers in all work environments should be aware that occupational health and safety legislation in many jurisdictions is not concerned only with physical dangers to workers, but emotional, mental and psychological dangers as well. Recently we have seen an increase in obligations placed on employers to protect an employee against workplace bullying, harassment, including sexual harassment, and workplace violence, and to conduct documented investigations into such incidents when the employer becomes aware of them.
Every employer has an obligation to take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their workers. For many employers, this will mean preparing and implementing written workplace health and safety policies and procedures (including training for employees), which are reviewed and updated based on regular workplace risk assessments, and which are consistently enforced. It will also include appropriate and ongoing training and education for employees.
We regularly assist employers to implement such policies and procedures to prevent problems before they arise. We are also experienced in assisting employers to appropriately respond to, investigate and resolve health and safety incidents, including helping employers to navigate situations involving workplace injuries and complaints of workplace harassment or bullying.
No employer wants to find themselves in the midst of a health and safety incident, but understanding your obligations as an employer and how to respond appropriately can allow you to address and resolve the issue, and prevent future problems from arising.
Don’t expose yourself to the financial consequences, and potential criminal liability, of failing to comply with your duties under provincial health and safety legislation. We will work with you to ensure that your policies and procedures are effective, and to defend you when allegations are made that you did not comply with your legal obligations.