A Risk To Health

Workplace Bullying As A Risk To Health

Juliet Kekana 7.jpg

Many workplaces have this problem and most often it is not dealt with as individuals affected either keep quiet or quit their jobs and move elsewhere to avoid its traumatic effects. We need to look at what kind of hazards really exist in the workplace? Most companies conduct risk assessment to identify potential hazards that could be harmful to employee and then embark on preventive measures to alleviate their risks.

 Most hazards identified are either of physical or chemical nature and risky behaviour is often neglected or underestimated. Have you given some thought to how employees’ behaviours affect your place? An employee with unruly behaviour is just as dangerous in the workplace. This is one hazard that is underestimated and if ignored may result in unpleasant work environment for all involved. To what extent do you as an employer protect your employees from emotional trauma brought about by fellow employees?

Defining workplace bullying – “Bullying and harassment means any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It is not necessarily always obvious or apparent to others and may happen in the workplace without an employer's awareness.”

A.    Are employees well protected from bullies by their employers?

One of the most important obligations of employers is to protect their employees from any sort of danger that is related to their workplace. Ver often, when dealing with risks or conducting a risk assessment. One of the dangers with bullying is that most often there are no eyewitness and therefore difficult to prove. A lot of awareness must take place to make employees aware of the dangers and how to deal with it in the workplace.

Most of the time when a person mentions being bullied at work; we assume it’s someone superior than them, but little do we know that bullying by a subordinate can take place as well.

B.     Signs of Workplace Bullying 

  • Constant criticism.
  • Removal of duties without reason.
  • Overbearing supervision or monitoring.
  • Threats, aggression, and shouting.
  • Being put down, picked on (either in private or in front of others), and made to feel like the butt of the jokes.
  • Being excluded and ignored.

C.     Effects of workplace bullying:

As much as we ignore how much workplace bullying could affect employee’s health, we need to be aware of its effects and how to create awareness around the subject. Here are some of the effects bullying could have on health:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Ulcers

In a research study on workplace bullying by Dina Maria Smit – University of Free State, highlighting some of the Statutory remedies from the health and safety point of view as follows:

“Employers have a duty of care towards employees, meaning that employers have to take active steps to ensure a healthy workplace as far as reasonably practicable, and to ensure that every employee is engaged in a safe work system”. Employers have legal and moral obligation to protect their employees from workplace bullying by their colleagues.

We have learnt from the Occupational Health and Safety Act, that an employer has an obligation to create a safe working environment for all employees. An environment where bullying can take place creates an unpleasant workplace for all concerned. Having been a victim of workplace bullying myself, I experienced first-hand how much it can affect one’s job performance. Employers who do not play an active role in implementing disciplinary measures against those guilty of bullying, promotes a culture that suggest that the practice is acceptable. It also leaves those affected feeling like they are not protected from that kind of behaviour.

Written by Juliet Kekana – Managing Director – De-novo HSE Training and Consulting

For more information on health and safety services, visit our website www.denovohse.co.za

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This edition

Issue 42