How often do your employees travel?
If your answer is: "Not that often", you may not have considered implementing a policy regarding travel. Certain types of jobs do not require workers to travel on a regular basis, for example, a bookkeeper, a process line worker, or a secretary... but how exactly do you define traveling? What do you consider traveling? out of the province? out of the city? or even down the street? More importantly, you may be wondering will I be liable if something happens to that worker while they are travelling. How does the new changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act affect travelling and your employees?
As an employer, it is easy to focus on making sure your plant, office or facility are safe from violence or harassment, however it is important to take into account that a workplace is anywhere a worker is engaging in company business. As an employer, you are responsible for keeping workers safe from harm in their workplaces... wherever those workplaces might be. Let's take a look at a few examples.
An employer asks her secretary to go to the nearest Staples and get some papers printed for a presentation. He gladly accepts the request and heads out to the nearest staples, a 10 minute drive away. As he steps out of his car, he was shoved from behind and his wallet was taken from him. Unfortunately, he did not carry a cell phone with him and could not immediately call for assistance from his co-workers or the authorities.
The controller is required to drive across the province to represent the company for a special industry convention. She gladly accepts and leaves for her trip after her work shift. The accountant drove through the night and decided to stay at the nearest motel. In the middle of the night, a knock came to her door. Startled, the employee decides not to open the door for security reasons. Behind the door, a stranger threatens to break in. The controller picks up the motel's phone to call security but there was no answer from the other end. The man behind the door eventually disappears.
The recent changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act around Violence and Harassment have put an added onus on the employer to ensure that their employees are safe from violence or harassment while in the workplace, wherever that workplace might be. Policies and procedures have to be documented and communicated to employees regularly to ensure they understand how to summon assistance or report an incident. Looking at the first scenario, the secretary should have been able to contact the authorities immediately if an incident had occurred; whether he was given a business cell phone or a co-worker lends their personal phone. With regard to the second scenario, the controller had nobody to contact as he was being verbally harassed by a stranger. Potentially, the employer should have researched into the accommodations to ensure that workers who were required to stay overnight were in a more secure location.
It is easy to forget about those employees who don't travel every day however It is essential to account for everyone in your workplace, to ensure they are safe from violence and harassment. It is impossible to prevent every incident, but you can reduce the risk by establishing the proper policies and procedures and ensuring those are communicated to your staff on a regular basis!
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