Massey University Study Finds Workplace Violence is a Multi-Million Dollar Problem

An article appeared about Workplace Violence on the New Zealand TV Web site recently which provided an overview of a new report from The Massey University Healthy Work Group, . The 2011 New Zealand Workplace Violence Study found that more than half of the workplaces surveyed have experienced workplace violence or workplace bullying.

The Massey University survey of 96 organizations found nearly 493 out of 2466 cases reported involved physical injury and 175 cases led to lost time and/or hospitalization. This accounted for a total of 572 lost working days directly credited to workplace violence and workplace bullying.

The health sector had the highest rate of workplace violence with 42 of the 175 most serious cases of physical assault. The rate is five times the enormity of the next highest sector, agriculture. The 2011 New Zealand Workplace Violence Survey aimed to find out the incidence and nature of workplace violence and identify sectors affected.

Workplace Violence Higher Incident Rate in New Zealand

Study co-author Dr. Bevan Catley, of the Healthy Work Group in the School of Management, said the incidence rate for all violence cases, of 32.3 per 1000 employees, was very high compared to rates reported by researchers in North America and Europe.

“In terms of money, the 572 lost days represents a significant cost to industry, especially when spread across the entire New Zealand workforce and indirect costs such as training, litigation and compensation are taken into account. Workplace bullying is a multi-million dollar problem and deserves further attention.

Workplace Violence Survey Results:

The survey covered a range of sectors including manufacturing, health, public administration, scientific and technical services, education, construction, agriculture and utility services. Violence reported ranged from attempted assault on people and damage to property to serious physical assault. The health sector, which covers health care and social assistance, claimed almost twenty-five percent of the more serious physical assault cases.

Catley said while the survey respondents, who were mostly health and safety managers, identified an impressive array of interventions, it was concerning that just 50% formally recognized violence as a hazard in the workplace. Perhaps continued  training in the field of Respectful Workplaces and Workplace Violence Prevention, is necessary for both managers and employees in all sectors.

The online study – which represents over 76,000 New Zealand employees, approximately 4% of the workforce – is the biggest yet and was based on workplace data from 2009. It showed a higher incidence of physical violence than observed for the 2007 workplace violence survey, which reported 143 cases of physical assault from the 62 organizations responding.

Participating organizations were mainly located in the main New Zealand cities and population centres.

Interpreting the Results

The report cited above can be viewed several ways. Perhaps  the statistics are higher than those reported in 2007 because more people are  aware of the issue of Workplace Violence and Workplace Bullying, and therefore are more cognisant of it  when it occurs and they recognize it more easily. On the  other hand, perhaps workplaces are just more dangerous and the statistics are  just a reflection of that sad fact. In any event, the impact of Workplace Violence and Bullying, can be devastating for employees, supervisors and businesses alike. It can result in stress related absences, injury or even death.

The issue  of workplace violence within the Health Sector remains a serious concern.

Reference: Catley, B., Bentley, T.A. & Jackson, D.J.R. (2011). Workplace Violence in New Zealand: Results from an Exploratory Survey. The Journal of Health, Safety and Environment, 27(1).