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Violence Prevention – The Right to Know

8.5 Access to Information

OH&SR 4.30 requires the employer to inform all workers of the nature and the extent of the risk of violence. The duty to inform includes a duty to provide information related to the risk of violence from persons who have a history of violent behaviour and whom workers are likely to encounter in the course of their work. This information must be provided to workers prior to their exposure to the risk. The employer must also instruct workers on

  • how to recognize the potential for violence
    the procedures, policies, and work environment arrangements which have been developed
    the appropriate responses to incidents of violence, including how to obtain assistance
    the procedures for reporting, investigating, and documenting incidents of violence

Members are often told that they cannot be informed about a student’s violent history as it would violate the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP), the School Act, or the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This is not correct. Members are entitled to know the nature and the extent of any risk of violence to which they are exposed. The Acts and OH&SR work in concert with the other legislation or parallel to it.

Section 25 of FOIPOP provides that whether or not a request for access has been made, the school board must, without delay, disclose to the public, to an affected group of people, or to an applicant, information about a risk of significant harm to the environment or to the health and safety of the public or a group of people or when disclosure is for any other reason clearly in the public interest. Note that prior to releasing the information, the school board, if practicable, must notify the party to whom the information pertains and the Privacy Commissioner. Anyone who receives information under this section is bound by the same privacy laws. Additionally, Section 22(4) states that a disclosure of personal information is not an unreasonable invasion of a third person’s privacy if there are compelling circumstances affecting anyone’s health and safety.

Privacy provisions under the School Act are superseded by the provisions of FOIPOP. Section 125 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act allows the disclosure of information in court records and police records if the disclosure is necessary to ensure the safety of staff, students or other persons. Such information must be kept separate from other records of the student, must not be accessible to any person for whom the disclosure is not necessary, and must be destroyed when it is no longer needed for the purpose for which it is disclosed.

There is no barrier to providing members with information that a particular student poses a safety risk. In fact, there is a duty for a school board with information about a student who poses a risk of violence to members to disclose the identity of the student, as well as the nature and extent of the risk of violence.

Members who are being denied information should involve a WorkSafeBC officer or file and application under FOIPOP for the information after seeking the advice of the local.