ISSUE 2013-02: April 26, 2013




In This Issue:

·         WorkSafe BC Updates

·         WorkSafe BC Board of Directors Approves Workplace Bullying and Harassment Policies

·         Voice Dysfunction and Teachers

WorkSafe BC Updates

WorkSafeBC Board of Directors Approves Workplace Bullying and Harassment Policies

On April 24, 2013 WorkSafeBC announced the approval of three new occupational health and safety workplace bullying and harassment policies.  The effective date of the policies is November 1, 2013. The policies define bullying and harassment and identify what prevention steps employers should take to stop or minimize workplace bullying and harassment.

The definition of bullying and harassment has been modified slightly as a result of the consultation process with the public.


bullying and harassment”

(a)   Includes any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated, but

(b)   Excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment.

The definition WorkSafeBC is using for a reasonable person is from Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th edition:

     “…a person who exercises the degree of attention, knowledge, intelligence, and judgment that society requires of its members for the protection of their own and of others’ interests.  The reasonable person acts sensibly, does things without serious delay, and takes proper but not excessive precautions…”

The Policy outlines the reasonable steps expected by employers to address the hazards.

A risk assessment is not necessary.

(a)   Developing a policy statement with respect to workplace bullying and harassment not being acceptable or tolerated;

(b)   Taking steps to prevent where possilbe, or otherwise minimize, workplace bullying and harassment;

(c)   Developing and implementing procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment including how, when and to whom a worker should report incidents or complaints.  Included must be procedures for a worker to report if the employer, supervisor or person acting on behalf of the employer, is the alleged bully and harasser;

(d)   Developing and implementing procedures for how the employer will deal with incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment including:

(i)             How and when investigations will be conducted;

(ii)            What will be included in the investigation;

(iii)           Roles and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers and others;

(iv)          Follow-up to the investigation (description of corrective actions, timeframe, dealing with adverse symptoms, etc) and

(v)           Record-keeping requirements;

(e)   Informing workers of the policy statement in (a) and the steps taken in (b);

(f)    Training supervisors and workers on:

(i)             Recognizing the potential for bullying and harassment:

(ii)            Responding to bullying and harassment: and

(iii)           Procedures for reporting, and how the employers will deal with incidents or complaints of bullying and harassment in (c) and (d) respectively:

(g)   Annually reviewing (a), (b), (c), and (d);

(h)   Not engaging in bullying and harassment of workers and supervisors; and

(i)     Applying and complying with the employer’s policies and procedures on bullying and harassment.

Ongoing work is being done at WorkSafeBC on guidelines and a toolkit. Sue Ferguson is working on one of the consultation teams. Information is being developed and will be accessible through the WorkSafeBC Website.

BCPSEA will be updating training materials used for the Train the Trainer Harassment Awareness sessions.  Districts that are currently using these materials should contact Sue Ferguson to request an email copy of the updated materials. The online Awareness of Harassment training will be updated this summer to include new information from WorkSafeBC in order to address training compliance under section (f) of the new policy.

Additional information is available directly from WorkSafeBC. They also have a number of self-help resources linked on their website:

Voice Dysfunction and Teachers

Voice amplification systems have been widely researched and do provide educational benefits to many students.  Recently there has been an increase in the number of teachers who feel this may also benefit them in helping with resting their voices while teaching. A voice amplification system may help some individuals with specific throat medical issues. If so, it should be recommended by a specialist as part of an overall treatment plan. BC has an excellent resource at UBC. The Provincial Voice Care Program is a good place to start.  You may want to have someone check out this resource for teachers requiring amplification for voice issues: http://www.pvcrp.com/.  


In my former life as a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing, I found a lot of research that voice amplification is good for all learners, especially for those with any learning or language challenges (special needs or ESL). You also have to check that new systems don’t compete with ones put in for children with hearing problems.


Here is some information and questions a general consultant or doctor may not have considered:


       Have they looked at the classroom and classroom organization to eliminate reverberation or extraneous noise? In other words, is the room suitable for additional amplification?

       Are there any competing transmission sources; i.e., another system for a student with hearing impairments that could cause a conflict or a source of amplification?

       Does the client have a vocal chord impairment requiring ongoing medical treatment? (surgery?)

       Has this request been reviewed by the specialist?

       Is the teacher receiving coaching in voice use therapy?

       Are they aware of how and when to use micro breaks, hydration and/or voice modulation?

Voice Amplifiers: Where? When? Why? How?

If a room is large, the background noise level is high, the room has a lot of echo, or you are outdoors, you will have to talk louder than your normal, comfortable speech level to be heard and to hear yourself. Speech under these conditions often results in throat tension and vocal strain. The longer you talk, the more strained your voice will feel and the more hoarse you may become. When your brain hears competing noise, or receives poor feedback from your ears about the clarity of your voice, it tells the voice box and breathing system to work harder to make a louder sound. Why? Because we rely on the feedback to our own ears as we speak to confirm that our speech is clear and audible, and because subconsciously humans understand it is impossible to communicate effectively under poor acoustic conditions. Voice training can increase awareness of the signs of improper voice use, but you cannot completely over-ride the powerful subconscious "strain to be heard" command ("The Lombard Effect").

It is important to evaluate the room acoustics before deciding the best approach to reducing speech level and vocal strain:

  • If room noise is created by external or internal sources such as machinery, ventilation, or traffic, it is best to look for a solution to controlling that environmental noise source.
  • If people are creating noise that competes with a speaker, the best solution is to find non-vocal ways to get the audience's attention and to modify the speaker's agenda so it is not necessary to communicate while the people noise is present.
  • Sometimes noise sources cannot be fully controlled. As long as a room is not too acoustically reverberant (echoic) a high-quality voice amplification system may allow a speaker to be heard above ambient noise without raising the voice.
  • If the physical characteristics of a room make it very reverberant, amplifying the vocal sound will also amplify the echo and create another competing noise source. In this situation, modifications to the room may be possible.

A room with high or hard-surface ceilings, hard-surface flooring, many windows, concrete or other hard-surface walls will be more likely to cause delayed reverberation of the voice that actually interferes with the ability to hear yourself speak. In this case, providing more sound-absorbing materials in the room may help, for example: carpeting, curtains, ceiling sound-tiles, or formal sound baffles (we had an art project making mobiles with cloth and cardboard egg cartons they acted as baffles much like movie theatres have).

  • If the room reverberation is too fast or the room is too sound-absorbent, you may not get the added benefit of your voice bouncing back to your ears confirming what you have said. In this case, reducing the amount of absorbent materials may help.
  • There is a fine balance between too much and too little reverberation!  When in doubt, have an audiologist or sound engineer make measures of the noise and reverberation characteristics of your usual speaking environments, and make recommendations for improving the acoustic conditions.

Some Strategies


Noise source solution:

  • Desk/chair movement Slip tennis balls onto the feet of chairs and desks. Make these yourself by cutting an “x” into each tennis ball. Precut tennis balls can be purchased from Hushups (www.hushhups.com) for about $250 per class (we got them free from a local tennis club). This will also reduce noise in the room(s) below the classroom.


Fluorescent light ballasts:

  • Electronic ballasts should be standard in all new construction; older stylemagnetic ballasts should be replaced.



  • Turn off unnecessary equipment; e.g., projectors, fish tanks, etc.


External sources (traffic, industry,students out of doors):

  • Install windows/doors with high noise reduction rating and good weatherstsipping
  • Move outdoor student activities away from classrooms, especially those that are south-facing where windows are more likely to be open


Adjacent classrooms,hallways:

  • Improve sound separation between rooms
  • Improve sound absorption of neighbouring areas


Noise in open-plan classroom:

  • Separate classroom into smaller spaces (floor-to-ceiling stud wall, sliding partitions).


Noise from heating and ventilation system:

  • Servicing of the system may reduce noise.
  • Modifications to the HVAC system may include better vibration isolation of fans and motors, addition of acoustic duct liners, conversion to quieter louvres, etc.  In some cases fan speed can be adjusted and subsequently lower the background or ambient noise levels.


Material-based noise (furniture made from light-weight materials that resonate easily):

  • Choose more solid materials to reduce potential reverberation noise.




If you have questions about the issues raised in this newsletter, or any health, safety or wellness issue, please contact Sue Ferguson at 604.730.4502 or suef@bcpsea.bc.ca.



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