Violence in the Workplace

SUN Position Statement on Violence

Violence means the attempted, threatened or actual conduct of a person that causes or is likely to cause injury. Workplace violence includes any physical or sexual assault from a patient, client, resident, volunteer, supervisor, manager, member of the public, or co-worker. Verbal abuse and threatening language or behaviour are also forms of violence.[1]

Violence is prevalent and under-reported in health care environments and is a significant source of injury and distress for registered nurses.[2] Violence can have long-term impacts on the workplace and on registered nurses’ physical and mental health and well-being.[3] Violence negatively affects outcomes for patients and families, registered nurses, and organizations.[4]

By law, employers must develop, implement, and review at least every 3 years, a comprehensive written policy statement and prevention plan to deal with potentially violent situations, in consultation with occupational health and safety committees, union representatives, and workers themselves.[5]

Violence policies and plans must include:

  • The employer’s commitment to minimize or eliminate risk;
  • The identification of worksites and staff positions for which there is a history or risk of violence;
  • The actions the employer will take to minimize or eliminate the risk of violence;
  • The procedures to be followed to document, report and investigate violent incidents; and
  • A commitment to provide a training program for workers to recognize potentially violent situations and to follow the procedures, work practices, administrative arrangements and controls that have been developed to minimize or eliminate risk.[6]

Every workplace must cultivate a culture of safety and respect based on the shared responsibility of all health care stakeholders, including employers, patients and families, registered nurses and other employees, government and community agencies, and nursing professional, regulatory, labour, and accreditation organizations.

By documenting and reporting violent incidents, SUN members can contribute to raising awareness about the scale of workplace violence, help identify strategies to reduce risk and make workplaces safe, and to contribute to a workplace and professional environment that refuses to normalize violence.

Registered nurses have the right to work and practice in an environment that is free from any form of violence and where violence is not tolerated as a part of their job.[7]



Canada Labour Code, R.S.C., 1985

Canadian Nurses Association and Canadian Federation of Nurses. Workplace Violence and Bullying. Retrieved from:

Government of Saskatchewan. (2012). Preventing Violence in the Workplace. Retrieved from:

Kvas, A., & Seljak, J. (2014). Unreported workplace violence in nursing. International Nursing Review, 61, 344-351. doi: 10.1111/inr.12106

The Registered NursesAssociation of Ontario. (2008). Violence Against Nurses: ‘Zero Tolerance’ For Violence Against Nurses and Nursing Students.

Roche, Diers, Duffield, & Catling-Paull. (2010). Violence Toward Nurses, the Work Environment, and Patient Outcomes. Journal of Nursing Scholarship. 42(1):13-22

Saskatchewan Employment Act. Sec 3-21. 2012

Stevenson, Jack, O’Mara, & LeGris. (2015). Registered nurses’ experiences of patient violence on acute care psychiatric inpatient units: an interpretive descriptive study. BCM Nursing, 14:35.


[1] (Government of Saskatchewan, 2012)

[2] (Kvas & Seljak, 2014)

[3] (Stevenson, Jack, O’Mara, & LeGris, 2015)

[4] (Roche, Diers, Duffield, & Catling-Paull, 2010)

[5] (Sask. Reg. 75/2012, s. 3)

[6] (Sask. Reg. 75/2012, s. 3)

[7] (RNAO, 2008; Canada Labour Code, 1985; CNA and CFNU, n.d.)