Workplace violence – breaking the silence

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According to Era Mae Ferron, project manager at Canadian non-profit Public Services Health and Safety Association, workplace violence (WPV) is globally a prevalent hazard for workers, with both long and short term consequences.

WPV defined

WPV can manifest itself in any of the following ways:
  • The exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker
  • An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker
  • A statement or behaviour that is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.

A taboo subject

According to Ferron, many people who are victims of WPV never report the issue.
“WPV is underreported,” she said. “Therefore, it is likely that more workers are injured on the job due to violence than are indicated by statistics.”

Sadly, underreporting in many industries is likely to be caused by “an enduring expectation that violence is ‘part of the job’”, Ferron said.

Priority areas

The Canadian government has created a steering committee specifically to tackle the issue in the country’s workplaces.

As a part of its efforts to do so, the committee has outlined five key areas that employers should address if they are concerned that employees are at risk of being victimised by WPV:
  1. Organisational risk assessment
  2. Individual client risk assessment
  3. Flagging
  4. Security
  5. Personal safety response team

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