EU OSHA Reports Increasing Level of Workplace Violence

Third-party violence and harassment affect up to 20 percent of European workers, but most managers have not taken steps to prevent it, the agency said in a new report.

A new report published by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) concludes workplace violence -- third-party bullying, harassment, and violence -- is increasing in EU workplaces, but prevention is lacking from employers and national governments.

The "Workplace Violence and Harassment: A European Picture" report says third-party violence and harassment affect from 5 to 20 percent of European workers, depending on the country, industry, and methodology employed. The report includes international statistics collected by the European Risk Observatory, part of EU-OSHA, whose survey indicated 40 percent of European managers are concerned by workplace violence and harassment, but only about 25 percent have implemented procedures to deal with it. In many EU countries, no more than 10 percent have done so, EU OSHA said.

The problem is most acute in health care, social work, and education. In these sectors, more than half of the managers surveyed said this is a safety and health problem at their sites.

"Both violence and harassment represent serious but under-reported threats to the safety and wellbeing of workers in Europe," said Jukka Takala, EU OSHA's director. "Violence, verbal aggression, or threats that employees experience with customers or patients are critical health and safety issues. And the psychological consequences are sometimes more dangerous than physical wounds. Workplace harassment can lead to stress, long-term sick leave, and even suicide. Economic consequences are reduced productivity, increased sickness absence, higher turnover of staff, and premature retirement due to disability at often early ages."

The report said there are few initiatives dealing with this issue in several European countries.

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