Bullying as a Health and Safety Issue


Bullying as a Health and Safety Issue

Is workplace bullying a health and safety issue?

In Australia, It looks as if workplace bullying will indeed be classified as a health and safety issue. In this article is the Australian government’s recommended new definition of workplace bullying: “repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety”. The implications for this potential shift in attention from individual state-by-state anti-bullying legislation are profound. First and foremost we may now have the opportunity to use existing laws to protect people from bullying behaviors and to respond to bullying complaints. Second, it won’t take much to demonstrate that some workplace bullying cases involve physical threats and physical attacks. Physical attacks are not ubiquitous but physical threats are certainly well documented.

While preparing this article some of my colleagues asked for examples of threats made to others while at work. Here are some for your consideration:

  • I know where you live
  • I know where your kids go to school
  • I’ll destroy you and your career
  • i will make sure you never work in this town again
  • I’m ready to slug you
  • I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it
  • I’ll kill you
  • You’re dead

The other exciting implication of this potential shift to health and safety is that it will make the consequences of bullying on physical and psychological well-being key evidence. These consequences are relatively easy to document and so clearly identified in the research on workplace bullying and conflict issues. As model legislation, the U.S. would do well to follow Australia’s lead.

So, if you are an HR professional or an employment attorney and you want more information or help with workplace bullying complaints, then read the complete article on bullying as a healthy and safety issue and then contact me for help.

I’m Kathleen Bartle, a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years.  My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts.  You can contact me here.

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  • Norm Thatcher

    My campain in anger management and nursing is SAFETY FIRST so I will support needs for workplace violence intervention.

  • Bernie Althofer

    Whilst the current Report highlights the need to include bullying as a work health and safety issue, there have been Codes of Practice under Workplace Health and Safety Legislation for several years. Whilst it has been a health and safety issue for several years, some organisations have ‘farmed’ it out into other areas of HR. In addition, there are a number of legislative and common law options available for individuals and organisations when workplace bullying occurs. However, it does seem that educative processes have not created appropriate levels of awareness of these options and how they can be used.


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