Collaborating for Safety: Violence in the Workplace Series

This article is the second of an on-going series of posts on “Violence in the Workplace” by Vice President Jeff Pelich. The first post, “When Should I Report,” highlighted the specific requirements for Waterloo members in informing their administrators when violent incidents occur. 

Developing a safety plan can be overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. Your union is a support available to assist your staff in developing a plan that is realistic, that meets the requirements of board policies and government legislation, and that protects the workers who are supporting students who are challenging in our schools.

Below are some of the basic considerations for developing an appropriate safety plan in your school.

When should a plan be developed?

Once a violent incident has occurred and there is an on-going risk to the safety of staff/students, a safety plan must be developed as outlined in board procedure AP 2330. A child’s age, grade, exceptionalities do not prevent plans from developed.

Safety Plans = Preventative AND Emergency Response

There is no one correct way to develop a plan and the main goal of these documents is to clearly outline the response to violent incidents in order to protect staff and students from harm. Preventative solutions are important and can include teaching strategies, accommodations or modifications. However, these strategies can sometimes be unsuccessful and an emergency response plan must be utilized. This includes specific actions that must be taken by specific staff when responding to the violence.

Develop in collaboration

Too often we hear of SERTs or classroom teachers being asked to develop plans in isolation. This is a mistake. Safety plans must be developed in collaboration with administration, teachers, educational assistants, child-youth workers, and other WRDSB supports.


Safety planning should include examining a variety of different situations that occur regularly in a school. These could include gym periods, nutrition breaks, occasional teachers, assemblies, etc. These experiences should be considered and planned for – particularly if they could trigger the child. Contingency planning must include identifying additional supports that can be utilized in case of emergency.

Non-Physical or Physical Interventions?


The safety plan has two types of interventions which can be identified and planned – non-physical or physical. When responding to violent behaviour, non-physical interventions should be attempted first. These include, but are not limited to, verbal reminders or cues, staff moving out of physical proximity of the child, redirection or distraction, evacuating the classroom, etc. When non-physical interventions have not deescalated a situation and there is an immediate risk to the safety of self or others, physical interventions can be used. These include contain and release, blocks, etc. ETFO advises that teachers are not identified as a “primary role” in any physical intervention and should plan to be with the remainder of the students during violent incidents.

ETFO provincial has also developed a PRS Matter document to address member questions about the Student Safety Plan.

In the next edition of this series, we will examine the on-going process of responding to violence. As always, if you have further questions or require additional support, the ETFO Waterloo office can be of help!

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