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January 24, 2011

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Rise in workplace violence despite fewer victims

The number of violent incidents at work last year totalled 677,000, according to the 2009/10 British Crime Survey – a rise of 8 per cent on the previous year’s sum.

But despite the increase, fewer workers experienced an incident of violence – 318,000 compared with 327,000 in 2008/09. The figures are presented in an HSE analysis of work-related violence in England and Wales, based on findings from the 2009/10 British Crime Survey (BCS).

The fact that there have been fewer victims but a greater number of incidents could be attributed to a rise in the proportion of victims who experienced more than one incident of violence.

An estimated 43 per cent of all people assaulted or threatened at work were repeat victims – up from 36 per cent in 2008/09. A quarter experienced three or more incidents of workplace violence during 2009/10, and a further 17 per cent experienced two incidents.

When looking at the consequences of violence at work, the BCS found 37 per cent of total physical assaults at work – of which there were 310,000 – resulted in injury. This is a significantly lower proportion than in the previous year, in which 47 per cent of assaults resulted in injury of some kind.

The HSE concludes that the overall risk of being a victim of actual or threatened violence at work is low. As in 2008/09, the BCS indicates that 1.4 per cent of working adults were the victims of one or more violent incidents at work.

The most risky occupations have not changed either, with 9 per cent of police officers – the group most at risk of attack – having experienced one or more incidents of actual, or threatened violence during the year. Others at risk include health professionals, at 3.8 per cent, and social-care professionals, at 2.6 per cent.

UNISON is calling for employers to enforce better safety measures to stop the growing number of repeat attacks and for tougher legal action to be taken against attackers.

The union’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said: “It is shocking that hard-working health and social workers remain the top targets for assaults. They should not be fearing for their safety at the start of a shift.€

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