Glenn French: Workplace Violence


Pre-recorded Introduction: Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, a production of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, broadcasting from Hamilton, Ontario.

CCOHS: Thank you for joining us for this episode of Health and Safety to Go.

Joining us today is Glenn French, President and CEO of the Canadian Initiative on Workplace Violence. Glenn is here today to talk to us about workplace violence and the importance of prevention. Thank you for joining us today, Glenn.

Glenn: Thank you for having me Jennifer.

CCOHS:† Glenn, what elements are included in workplace violence?

Glenn: Well, most people think about workplace violence as a physical act when someone is hit, slapped, punched; however it has in the last number of years, taken on a broader perspective and people may have noticed that legislation across Canada is starting to change.

At first we were focused on physical acts of violence from inside and outside of the workplace and then as a result of some incidences happening that were well-publicized, no we are starting to look at, and we have been for some years now, issues around psychological harassment. Thatís how I refer to it. People may refer to it as bullying. And now people are now concerned with civility in the workplace. So I would prefer to think of violence as a physical act however there is aggressiveness that can take many indirect forms as well and so we are looking at the entire package at this point.

CCOHS: Are there specific sectors or types of workplaces that incur more violence-related incidents?

Glenn: Yes there certainly are. Think about it in two ways: individuals who work with the public, particularly in jobs where they are restraining or directing or providing some sort of certification, these individuals would be much more vulnerable to physical assaults and physical attacks.

Individuals who donít work with the public we find often will complain about harassment in the workplace as opposed to a physical assault. So it seems to be that individuals who work in the public domain and you can think of the occupations that that might include; it could include everyone from those working in healthcare, long-term care, policing, even people working in gas stations where theyíre handling cash or theyíre mixing with people who might be unstable, or maybe intoxicated.

So all of those occupations have unique risks as opposed to someone who is working, letís say, in an insurance company where theyíre processing information and they are working in a pool with other people, where they might be harassed more often.

So thatís the best way to think about it. Itís working with the public that seems to be the dangerous thing for many people.

CCOHS: Glenn, we hear the phrase violence prevention thrown around a lot, is prevention really possible in many cases?

Glenn: Well it is. Ah, first of all, letís be realistic, that prevention cannot be guaranteed on all occasions. There are circumstances that cannot be anticipated where someone is harmed on the job. However, every employer, and every supervisor and every employee should be always cognisant of ways that they can prevent abuse happening in the workplace. Itís like any other occupational health and safety issue, that we can have in place, programs, education that can help people to be more aware and so that they can report these incidences as much as they possibly can. So thatís very important and yes, we can prevent as much as we can, we can prevent these kinds of incidences from happening.

CCOHS: Okay great, I just have one last question. What prevention measures can organizations take before workplace violence happens?

Glenn: Well, I think every organization, regardless of the jurisdiction in which youíre in, should have a number of components. First of all, I would think that everyone listening to this podcast would have policies and procedures in place to address specific types of violence in their workplace. I would also assume that an employer would have conducted some form of risk assessment or a hazard assessment in their workplace to find out where their vulnerabilities are. I would also expect them to have some form of protocol, a clear protocol, to both report incidences or concerns and to see that they are investigated properly.

We also need to have in place emergency response plans; not just for the larger organization, which everyone has with respect to fire, bomb threats, and that type of thing, but an emergency plan for individuals who are in particularly vulnerable positions would be wise as well.

Other forms of prevention; victim assistance, itís very important that we important that we assist people who have been abused on the job and not ignore them. And we also need to have an incident follow-up protocol to ensure that weíve done a good job every time one of these incidences come up. And of course we do need training and education and orientation to everybody, not just to employees but those people who work on our property as well. †And in sum, all of these things need to be reviewed on a periodic basis.

CCOHS: Thank you again for joining us today, Glenn, youíve shared some great ideas and insight on what violence prevention looks like in the workplace. For more information on workplace violence please visit Thanks for listening everyone.