Violence and Injury Prevention

Background

Joint Programme on Workplace Violence in the Health Sector

Violence at work is becoming an alarming phenomenon worldwide. Affecting the dignity of millions of people, violence is a major source of inequality, discrimination, stigmatisation and conflict in the workplace. Increasingly, it is becoming a central human rights issue. The enormous cost of workplace violence for the individual, the workplace and the community at large is becoming more and more apparent. Recent information shows that the current knowledge is only the tip of the iceberg.

While workplace violence affects practically all sectors and all categories of workers, the health sector is at major risk: more than half of all workers in this sector may have experienced violent incidents at some point. Ambulance and pre-hospital emergency staff are reported to be at greatest risk. Nurses are three times more likely than other occupational groups, on average, to experience violence in the workplace. Since the large majority of the health workforce is female, the gender dimension of the problem is very evident.

What is workplace violence?

Workplace violence includes both physical and non-physical violence. It finds its expression in physical assault, homicide, verbal abuse, bullying/mobbing, sexual/racial harassment and making threats. A widely accepted definition, used by the European Commission, is:

"Incidents where staff are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances related to their work, including commuting to and from work, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, well-being or health."

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