All Manitoba employers will now have to report annually on all violent incidents in their workplace, as part of a set of changes coming to the province's workplace and safety rules.
Labour Minister Jennifer Howard said the changes will take effect at the end of August and will also require all employers to develop policies on how to get immediate help when workers are threatened.
"You need a way for an employee to call for help, to get immediate help, and they need to know what that procedure is," said Howard.
She said tracking and reporting violence in the workplace can be "helpful" in assessing what level of risk there is, as well as raising awareness among workers about the importance of coming forward.
"I think in some workplaces, unfortunately, there has been an acceptance of a certain level of violent activity where people don't think of these things as workplace safety and health issues that they need to report, so I think this helps to raise that awareness," she said, adding inspectors will have access to the reports.
The changes also make it clear personal information can be released amongst employees to protect workers from violence, an issue that's cropped up in the health-care sector due to privacy legislation.
"(If there's) a client or a patient or someone in the workplace that has that history, they can release that information, and they should release that information where necessary to protect employees from the risk of violence," said Howard. The change will also specifically affect police officers.
As of Aug. 1, police services across Manitoba must provide "adequate transportation" home, within a city or town, if an officer starts or finishes between midnight and 6 a.m.
"Policing has changed a lot, and they certainly feel much more subject to intimidation, particularly by organized crime," said Howard. The Winnipeg Police Association, the union that represents WPS officers, has highlighted concerns for police officers going to and from work.
"In recent years, there has been a significant increase in attempts by criminal organizations to target police officers as a means of intimidation. This includes drive-bys in the vicinity of police stations and locations where officers park their vehicles, at times when officer shifts are ending or beginning in the late-night hours. The most extreme forms of intimidation have included firing at or firebombing officers' homes," said a Manitoba labour and immigration backgrounder dated from June 2011.
The new laws mean employers in areas like health care, security, pharmacies and crisis counselling must have a violence prevention policy.
"We're assuming in these sectors, based on the evidence, there's a risk," said Howard.
That also covers people who work in education, public transit and taxicabs, as well as other industries.
The changes by the province highlight the ongoing issue of violence in a variety of workplaces.
This week, the Free Press is running a series of stories that look at the impact of violence on people who work in health care, education and public safety and security.
People interviewed for the series say not all violence encountered in the course of those jobs is criminal in nature.
However, some workplace violence does lead to criminal charges, like when a 54-year-old man was attacked at a Concordia Avenue pizza business this May.
Gerry Crayford, a pizza-delivery man working the night shift, died after he was allegedly hit in the head with an axe during an armed robbery. An 18-year-old man and 15-year-old boy police later arrested each face a second-degree murder charge for his death.