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The extent and nature of workplace victimization in Canada

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How this study measures workplace violence

The GSS examines the prevalence of violence for three offences: sexual assault, robbery and physical assault.

Sexual assault: Forced sexual activity, an attempt at forced sexual activity, or unwanted sexual touching, grabbing, kissing or fondling.

Robbery: Theft or attempted theft in which the perpetrator had a weapon or there was violence or the threat of violence against the victim.

Physical assault: An attack (victim was hit, slapped, grabbed, knocked down, or beaten), a face-to-face threat of physical harm, or an incident with a weapon present.

In order to capture the extent of workplace violence, the GSS asked respondents about the location of their criminal victimization incident. Possible locations included: the respondent’s home and surrounding area, other private residences or farms, commercial or institutional establishments, streets or other public spaces, or “other” locations.

Only those who reported that the incident occurred in a commercial or institutional establishment were asked if this location was also their place of work. The types of commercial or institutional establishments listed in the survey include: restaurants, bars, schools or school grounds, commercial or office buildings, factories, stores, shopping malls, hospitals, prisons and rehabilitation centres.

Since those respondents who experienced violence in locations other than commercial or institutional establishments were not asked whether the location was also their place of work, the extent of workplace violence in this study may be underestimated. For example, those working in high- risk professions such as police officers, paramedics, bus drivers and taxi drivers who may have been victimized in streets, public places or other locations would not be included in this analysis. In addition, incidents involving those who work in primarily residential settings, such as house cleaners, home care workers, or child care workers would also be excluded from the analysis.

According to the 2004 GSS, 17% of all self-reported incidents of violent victimization, including sexual assault, robbery and physical assault, occurred at the respondent’s place of work. This represents over 356,000 violent workplace incidents in Canada’s ten provinces.

There were some variations among the provinces. For example, 40% of all violent incidents in Newfoundland and Labrador occurred at the victim’s workplace. This proportion was at least double that of each of the other provinces, which ranged from 11% in Nova Scotia to 20% in both Saskatchewan and Alberta.1

Research has shown that certain sectors pose greater risks for violent workplace victimization. For example, employees that frequently come into contact with the public or clients are more likely to report being the victim of a violent incident (Macdonald and Sirotich 2005; Runyan et al. 2005; Hesketh et al. 2003).2  Newfoundland and Labrador’s higher proportion of violent workplace  incidents may be partly explained by the fact that a greater proportion of residents in Newfoundland and Labrador work in higher risk sectors.

Amost half (48%) of respondents in Newfoundland and Labrador reported working in higher risk employment sectors such as health care, social assistance, accommodation and food services.3  This proportion was much higher than the proportion of workers in these same sectors from the other Canadian provinces which ranged from 13 % to 29%.


  1. Estimates for Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick were too unreliable to be published.

  2. According to the 2004 GSS, 58% of all violent workplace victimization incidents occurred against victims who worked in educational services, health care, social assistance, accommodation and food services.

  3. Sectors were derived using the 1997 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

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Date modified: 2007-02-16 Important Notices