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Increase in workplace violence: ILO

In developing countries, the most vulnerable workers include women, migrants and children, reports ILO.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2006 17:07 IST

Violence at work, ranging from bullying and mobbing to threats by psychologically unstable co-workers, sexual harassment and homicide, has reached epidemic levels in some countries, says a new study of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

"What is more, the global cost of workplace violence is enormous and causing millions of dollars of losses in other countries," the study released on Wednesday says.

Even professions once regarded as sheltered from workplace violence such as teaching, social services, library services and healthcare are being exposed to increasing acts of violence, in both developed and developing countries.

The study 'Violence at work' (third edition) is prepared by Vittorio Di Martino, an international expert on stress and workplace violence, and Duncan Chappell, past president of the New South Wales Mental Health Review, Australia, and the Britain's Commonwealth Arbitral Tribunal.

"Bullying, harassment, mobbing and allied behaviours can be just as damaging as outright physical violence," the authors say.

"Today, the instability of many types of jobs places huge pressures on workplaces, and we are seeing more of these forms of violence."

In addition, the authors also address growing concerns about terrorism, calling it "one of the new faces of workplace violence contributing to the already-volatile mix of aggressive acts taking place on the job".

The report says women represent approximately 61 per cent of all victimised workers because of their concentration in jobs considered high-risk for assault.

In developing countries, the most vulnerable workers include women, migrants and children.

In Malaysia, 11,851 rape and molestation cases at the workplace were reported between 1997 and May 2001.

Widespread sexual harassment and abuse were major concerns in South Africa, Ukraine, Kuwait, Hong Kong and China, the report said.

Developed countries, too, are not free from the problem. A 2000 survey of the then-15 member states of the European Union showed that bullying, harassment and intimidation were widespread in the region.

In Japan, the number of cases brought before court counsellors totalled 625,572 between April 2002 and March 2003.

On a positive note, the study cited reduction in the workplace violence in Britain and the US.

Growing awareness of the need to tackle workplace violence has spawned the development of new and effective prevention strategies.

The study highlights a number of "best practice" examples from local and national governments, enterprises and trade unions from around the world that have successfully implemented "zero tolerance" polices and violence-prevention training programmes.

Many countries have now explicitly recognised violence in their national occupational health and safety legislation, according to the study.

Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Poland and Sweden have recently adopted new legislation or amended existing laws and regulations to address violence at work.