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By Toni Grewal (she/her), BCTF Health and Safety Officer

Schools are hearts of communities; teachers support students as learners in safe and welcoming spaces. Schools are also workplaces and teachers are workers who have the right to be protected from risks and hazards. Workplace violence is an unfortunate reality for our members. Violent incidents in schools can involve teachers supporting students with diverse abilities/disabilities. These violent incidents can cause physical and/or psychological injury to teachers, which can affect their short- and long-term health and well-being. Violence prevention is essential to keep teachers healthy and safe. School districts need to have robust and comprehensive violence prevention programs.

Background
In March 2019, at a WorkSafeBC K–12 sector meeting, a working group including key education stakeholders took on the task of creating a workplace violence prevention strategy. The goal of the working group was to provide school districts with tools and resources so they can take steps to prevent workplace violence. Initially, the working group had anticipated completing the K–12 Violence Prevention Toolkit in the spring of 2020. However, because of the emergent health and safety issues in schools precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the launch was delayed until 2021.

Who are the members of the working group?
  • BC Teachers’ Federation
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees
  • BC Public School Employers’ Association
  • BC School Superintendents Association
  • BC Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association
  • School Safety Association of BC
  • WorkSafeBC
  • rural and urban representatives from district occupational health and safety staff.

What is the key messaging?
The working group developed the following as key messaging with regards to violence prevention:

  • Reporting violence will help prevent future violence in schools.
  • Responding to a violent incident will help prevent future incidents.
  • Re-evaluating prevention practices helps minimize the risk of violence.

WorkSafeBC is currently working on a poster and video campaign featuring this messaging. The posters and videos will be shared on the BCTF website.

How does current regulation support the scope and content of the toolkit?
As per Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 4.29-2,1 employers are expected to have a Workplace Violence Prevention Program. The following are elements of a violence prevention program:

  • Policy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Written Supplementary Instructions
  • Worker and Supervisor Training
  • Incident Reporting and Investigation
  • Incident Follow-up
  • Program Review.

These elements have been incorporated into the resources in the toolkit.

What is in the toolkit?
The toolkit contains many resources, templates, and forms. Here are some key documents:

  • Workplace Violence Prevention Procedure
  • Workplace Violence Incident Report and Review
  • Workplace Violence Risk Assessment
  • Refusal of Unsafe Work Process.

How were the resources in the toolkit developed?
Members of the working group supplied existing documents and templates and created new documents specifically for the toolkit. All documents were thoroughly reviewed by the group.

Who vetted the resources in the toolkit?
Every single resource was reviewed by employer representatives, union representatives, and WorkSafeBC staff. Furthermore, leadership of all the partner organizations had an opportunity to provide feedback on the messaging, review all the documents in the toolkit, and participate in a WorkSafeBC video.

What are the next steps?
The working group will continue to meet regularly. It will be essential to assess how the resources in the toolkit are being used by school districts to prevent violence in the workplace. The resources in the toolkit will be updated and revised annually, or sooner if needed.

Reporting violence in the workplace
If you are a teacher and have experienced violence in the workplace, report the incident to your principal and your school health and safety rep. If you are a school health and safety rep, report the violent incident to your principal and health and safety committee. The principal (as the employer’s representative) is responsible for the health and safety of all workers at the school or school site.

Members, school health and safety reps, and members of health and safety committees can obtain advice and support from their local union president, BCTF staff, and WorkSafeBC prevention services. Violence prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

The K­–12 Violence Prevention Toolkit is available on bctf.ca.

1 www.worksafebc.com/en/law-policy/occupational-health-safety/searchable-ohs-regulation/ohs-policies/policies-part-04#SectionNumber:R4.29-2