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Statistics on Workplace Bullying, Harassment, Violence, and Stress


Workplace-bullying_1We have been tracking and reporting in our blog about workplace bullying and other emerging workplace safety and health issues.  Much of our reporting has centered on the definitions and examples of these new threats, but also where legislation has been developed and where claims have been brought forward.  The reality of these concerns is what makes these issues  more jarring.  We often think of these issues as something that is reported in papers but not close to us.

Surprisingly, workplace bullying, harassment, violence, and stress have now become one of the top concerns of workers. Some statistics help explain these concerns:

Overall, approximately one in ten European workers report having experienced some form of workplace violence, either physical or psychological, in the previous 12 months, with levels of reported psychological violence as high as those of physical violence. The incidence of threats of physical violence tends to be higher than exposure to actual physical abuse.

In the United States, a 2010 Zogby International poll indicated that over 34% of adults said they had been bullied at work.  One out of three employees in the United States feels he/she has been bullied on the job, according to the Department of Labor.  Among types of psychological violence, workplace bullying/harassment is more prevalent than sexual harassment.

A recent U.S. Department of Labor survey of employers with 1,000 or more workers revealed that more than 50% reported at least one incident of workplace violence during the preceding 12-month period. OSHA states that nearly 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year, though many cases are not reported.

  • A recent survey from AlliedBarton Security Services entitled “Violence in the American Workplace” revealed that 52% of Americans who work outside their home have “witnessed, heard about, or have experienced a violent event or an event that can lead to violence at their workplace.” The survey also linked the likelihood of workplace violence to low employee morale.
  • In New Zealand, a June 2011 Massey University survey of 96 organizations found more than half had experienced workplace violence. Nearly a fifth of the 2466 cases reported involved physical injury and 175 cases led to lost time and/or hospitalization. This accounts for a total of 572 lost working days directly attributable to workplace violence.
  • In the United Kingdom, research found that 53% of employees had been victims of workplace bullying and that 78% had witnessed such behavior. Approximately 318,000 workers had experienced at least one incident of violence at work in the 2009/10. There were an estimated 677,000 incidents of violence at work according to the 2009/10, comprising 310,000 assaults and 366,000 threats, according to the British Crime Survey.
  • A February 2011 Commission Staff Working Paper-Report on the implementation of the European social partners Framework Agreement on Work-related Stress showed that over the last 10 years, work-related stress has increased in 9 EU countries and has only fallen in Sweden.  Studies suggest that between 50% and 60% of all lost working days are related to stress.
  • In 2008-2009 an estimated 415,000 workers in Britain believed that they were experiencing work-related stress at a level that was making them ill, according to a Labour Force Survey. 79% of European managers think that stress is an issue in their companies, making stress at work as important as workplace accidents for companies.
  • In Australia, a July 2011 analysis by Australia’s federal work health and safety regulator, Comcare, found that since 2006-2007, there has been a 54% increase in mental stress claims, as a proportion of total accepted claims.  The Comcare figures reveal that over the last 12 months, mental stress claims accounted for almost 22% of all serious claims that involved one week or more time off from work.
  • In Taiwan, according to the “Survey of Perceptions of Safety and Health in the Work Environment in 2007 Taiwan” conducted by IOSH in 2007, 13% of all employees frequently suffer from heavy pressure in their work, and 24% have emotional problems, such as anxiety, depression, irritability. IOSH’s analysis of the causes of worker deaths in 2008 shows that 757 workers committed suicide that year, an average of two per day, making suicide the fourth largest cause of death among workers.

To say these figures are staggering is perhaps an understatement, but more importantly they represent data that will likely be used by regulators and others to support the call for either new legislation or expanded enforcement of existing laws.  Businesses should consider reviewing their operations and procedures to ensure that they are doing what they can to address these new emerging workplace issues.  As a simple way of looking at your operation, you should at a minimum consider the following:

  • Are laws in place in the country where your facility is operating which regulate the above areas?
  • Do you have a Workplace Policy addressing these emerging health and safety issues?
  • Is training and information provided to employees and managers on these topics?
  • Has a process been established for confidentially reporting complaints related to bullying and violence, and are programs available to address workplace stress-related issues?
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