BURLINGTON, Ontario – Kinark Child and Family Services, an agency providing children’s mental health services and support for children and youth in Halton Region and elsewhere in central Ontario, has been fined $125,000 following a workplace violence incident where a staff member was physically assaulted by a youth.
On May 4, 2014, at Kinark’s Syl Apps Youth Centre facility on Iroquois Shore Road in Oakville, a youth worker who had recently started an employment contract on the detention and custody unit for boys was directing a youth to return to his room for the night. The youth became agitated, entered the staff office and repeatedly struck the worker. A co-worker also located in the staff office intervened in the assault and was also injured. Both workers suffered physical and psychological injuries.
Kinark pleaded guilty to failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence or the risk of violence from a resident.
The fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Liisa Ritchie in Burlington court on August 16, 2016. In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.
Violence prevention starts by identifying behaviors of concern. Employers need to focus on identifying behavioral warning signs and actions in advance in order to intervene prior to a violent act taking place.
Many employers have no formal structure to address observations beforehand. P bar Y Safety explained the value in having a central data repository because it can assist in connecting the dots of what may appear to be unrelated behavior. Documentation of what co-workers and employers see and hear, as well as documentation of an employee’s actions, are to be included in the repository.
Employees can help identify potential co-workers at highest risk by noting whether an employee has experienced multiple pressures, such as a divorce or change in job performance, made specific threats, been mocked by co-workers or has brought a weapon to work.
Some behavioral red flags of employees at risk may include:
- Suicidal thoughts;
- Has weapons;
- Makes intimidating comments about hurting someone else;
- Destroys property;
- Displays fits of rage;
- Blames others for problems;
- Files many grievances/complaints;
- Has frequent bouts of depression;
- Has had bouts of substance abuse;
- Exhibits major changes in behavior;
- Appears paranoid;
- Takes criticism poorly;
- Is a loner;
- Obsessed with the military, police or criminals.
Even if red flags are identified, P bar Y Safety said that protective factors like community involvement, positive coping skills, family and friends can reduce the threat.
Employers that develop a program to identify red flags develop a behavior snapshot over time. This snapshot encompasses psychological and biological, social and peer, family, workplace and threat-related behavior.
He identified four key assessment program components:
- Awareness– P bar Y Safety suggests management and workers look, listen and report.
- Intelligence– Prescreening with background check, social media monitoring, offer an anonymous reporting tool.
- Central repository– All tips go into a central repository. Human Resources is notified. A threat monitoring team made up of at least three people, one each from Human Resources, security and operations.
- BeRThA plan– (Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment) Threat monitoring team screens reports, categorizes risk, actively monitors situation to resolution.
According to P bar Y Safety, some ways employers can reduce the threat of workplace violence are by:
- Developing a workplace culture of dignity and respect;
- Having up to date policies and procedures;
- Training all employees on the warning signs;
- Developing a reporting tool;
- Making sure physical security, such as fences, locks and cameras are in place.
- Monitoring social media.
- Ensuring response protocols are in place