Nearly a fifth of the 2466 cases reported involved physical injury and 175 cases led to lost time and/or hospitalisation.
This accounts for a total of 572 lost working days directly attributable to workplace violence.
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 magnitude 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.
Study co-author Dr Bevan Catley, of the Healthy Work Group in the School of Management, says the incidence rate for all violence cases (32.3 per 1000 employees) was very high compared to rates reported by researchers in North America and Europe.
“In dollar terms, the 572 lost days represents a significant cost to industry, especially when extrapolated across the entire New Zealand workforce and indirect costs such as training, litigation and compensation are taken into account,” he says. “Clearly workplace bullying is a multi-million dollar problem and deserves further attention.”
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, included nearly a quarter of the more serious physical assault cases.
Dr Catley says while the survey respondents, who were mostly health and safety managers, identified an impressive array of interventions, it was concerning that just 50 per cent formally recognised violence as a hazard in the workplace.
“Interestingly, workloads and time pressure also received relatively high ratings, suggesting work-related stress increases the perceived risk of violence in the workplace,” Dr Catley says.
The online study – which represents over 76,000 New Zealand employees, approximately four per cent of the workforce – is the biggest yet and was based on workplace data from 2009. It shows a higher incidence of physical violence than observed for the 2007 workplace violence survey, which reported 143 cases of physical assault from the 62 organisations responding.
Participating organisations were mainly located in the main New Zealand cities and population centres, including Auckland (24 per cent of organisations), Waikato (8.3 per cent), Bay of Plenty (10.4 per cent), Wellington (10 per cent) and Canterbury (8.3 per cent).
The research was carried out by Professor Tim Bentley, Dr Bevan Catley, Dr Darryl Forsyth and Dr David Tappin.
Read the full study here: