According to Era Mae Ferron, who handles workplace violence issues on a daily basis, workplace violence (WPV) is a globally prevalent issue – and employees' inclination to keep quiet when they are victimised makes it particularly challenging to flag up.
Ferron is a project manager at Canadian non-profit Public Services Health and Safety Association, and warns employers that WPV can have both long and short term consequences in and outside of the workplace.
WPV can manifest itself in any of the following ways:
A taboo subject
- 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.
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.
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:
- Organisational risk assessment
- Individual client risk assessment
- Personal safety response team
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