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J Interpers Violence. 2013 Sep;28(13):2749-69. doi: 10.1177/0886260513487987. Epub 2013 May 15.

Threats and physical violence in the workplace: a comparative study of four areas of human service work.

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Department of Occupational Medicine, Regional Hospital Herning, Herning, Denmark.


The aim of this study was to investigate threats and physical violence in the workplace by comparing four areas of human service work, namely psychiatry, eldercare, the Prison and Probation Service (PPS), and special schools (SS). The results revealed that there were statistically significant differences in the frequency of threats and violence among these areas of human service work. In particular, employees in SS were frequently exposed. More exposure was related to a higher degree of reporting incidents in writing to the workplace. However, exposure was not consistently related to self-rated seriousness of the incidents or attitudes that reflect accept of workplace threats and violence. Both threats and physical violence were rated within a moderate range of seriousness in all these areas of work. PPS and SS expressed more accept (attitude) of workplace threats and violence in comparison to psychiatry and eldercare.


workplace threats and violence toward staff in areas of human service work is a widespread phenomenon. There is a particular need for better prevention in SS, more research on the seriousness of threats in general, and more knowledge about the relationship between work environment and attitudes about workplace threats and violence.


attitudes of violence; human service work; physical violence; self-rated seriousness; threats

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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