Long ignored, denied or considered to be a harsh reality which just has to be accepted as part of life, it is only recently that violence at work has started to receive the attention that it deserves as a serious safety and health hazard which has a high cost for victims and enterprise performance alike.
While many people were of course aware of the existence of violence at work, few voiced their concern or considered it a specific workplace issue. When the ILO published the first edition of its report on Violence at work in 1998, it obviously struck a deep chord. Since then, there has been a growth of attention to and awareness of this alarming phenomenon worldwide. Fresh information is now emerging which shows that what we see is only the tip of the iceberg: the real size of the problem is still largely unknown. The enormous cost of violence at work for the individual, the workplace and the community at large is also becoming progressively more apparent.
This introduction to violence at work is intended to provide brief answers to a number of questions. These include: What forms does violence at work take? Which sectors and occupations are most affected? To what extent are women particularly vulnerable, with special reference to sexual harassment? What is the cost of violence at work to the individual, the enterprise and society? Do we understand why violence at work happens?