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Violence in the workplace

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For some Canadians, work is a dangerous place.

According to the 2004 General Social Survey on victimization, 17% of self-reported incidents of violent victimization occurred in the workplace. These incidents—including sexual assault, robbery and physical assault—added up to 356,000 violent workplace incidents in the 10 provinces in 2004.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the victim’s workplace was the location of 40% of all violent incidents—a proportion two times higher than in any other province. Among the other provinces, in 2004 the rate ranged from 11% in Nova Scotia to 20% in both Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Certain workers are more likely to be affected: in the survey, 33% of the victims worked in social assistance or health care, 14% in accommodation or food services, and 11% in education.

Someone known to the victim committed two out of three of the workplace incidents, whereas one in three incidents was committed by a stranger. In 18% of incidents where the victim knew the accused, the victim was a coworker of the perpetrator; in 11%, the victim knew the perpetrator.

In 38% of the reported incidents, the accused was either someone else known by the victim or had an ‘other’ type of relationship with the victim. The accused may, for example, have been a patient, a client, a customer or a former coworker. In 46% of incidents, the victim believed the incident was related to the perpetrator’s use of drugs or alcohol.

One in five victims reported suffering injuries. For some, the consequence was emotional. The most commonly reported emotional impacts for victims were being angry (21%), being upset, confused or frustrated (20%) and feeling fearful (15%).