No sector in Canada experiences more occurrences of workplace violence than healthcare. While the number of reported instances of workplace violence continues to decrease each year, that number will never be acceptable until it reaches zero.
One of the most effective ways of eliminating workplace violence is education. At the end of March, SEIU Healthcare Union Representative Tessa Davis spoke to two classes of future personal support workers (PSWs) at George Brown College in Toronto about the importance of understanding what workplace violence is and knowing their rights if they are exposed to it.
“A lot of healthcare workers are not aware of their rights in the workplace,” said Davis. “Many workers don’t know that they have the right to refuse work if they experience workplace violence, while others are afraid of reporting it out of fear of dismissal or a loss of hours.”
George Brown professor Lorraine Montague also sees a lack of knowledge about workplace violence as a serious problem.
“A lot of students in this program are new to Canada,” said Montague. “Things that are considered workplace violence here are not treated as such in the countries they come from, so it’s extremely important that these students have a clear understanding of what workplace violence is and how they should address it should they experience it.”
Workplace violence is a subject close to Davis’ heart, as her grandmother lost her life in 1996 in a workplace violence-related incident. She shared this story with the George Brown students, and according to Montague, it left a definite impact.
“So many young Canadians, especially those new to the country, think this is the safest place in the world and bad things don’t happen,” said Montague. “Tessa’s story was very eye-opening to a lot of my students and really highlighted the importance of identifying and reporting workplace violence in its earliest stages.”
To learn more about workplace violence and harassment, visit https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/topics/workplaceviolence.php