January 14, 2019 - Holly Foxworth

Could Workplace Bullying Become Your Next Safety Issue?


Gone are the days of considering bullying, harassment, and violence only the problems of your human resource department.  They are now your next safety issue in the workplace!

As explained at the 2018 Safety Leadership Conference, what ends as a violent act starts out slowly as incivility, or the intent to harm a worker. Negative interactions or jabs at someone could be brushed off as a cultural norm at the workplace.

Unfortunately, this can escalate to hazing or harassment, leading to a physical act.

What is Workplace Bullying?

Bullying is usually seen as acts or verbal comments that could mentally hurt or isolate a person in the workplace.  Sometimes, bullying can involve negative physical contact as well.

Bullying usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behavior that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people.

It has also been described as the assertion of power through aggression.

Examples of workplace bullying may include:

  • Spreading malicious rumors, gossip, or innuendo.
  • Intimidating a person.
  • Undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work.
  • Threatening abuse.
  • Removing areas of responsibilities without cause.
  • Withholding necessary information or purposefully giving the wrong information.
  • Making jokes that are offensive by spoken word or e-mail.
  • Intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spying or stalking.
  • Assigning unreasonable duties or workload which are unfavorable to one person (in a way that creates unnecessary pressure).
  • Criticizing a person.
  • Belittling a person’s opinions.
  • Tampering with a person’s personal belongings or work equipment.

How Bullying Affects the Workplace

 Bullying affects the overall health of an organization. An unhealthy workplace can have many effects, including:

  • Decreased productivity and motivation.
  • Decreased morale.
  • Increased risk for accidents/incidents.
  • Increased absenteeism.
  • Increased stress.
  • Increased turnover.
  • Increased costs for employee assistance programs (EAPs), recruitment, etc.
  • Reduced corporate image and customer confidence.
  • Poor customer service.

A Systematic Approach to Taking Action

As workplace violence falls under OSHA’s general duty clause, stating the companies have to create a safe and healthy environment for workers, safety professionals are encouraged to take the following steps:

Recognize bullying, harassment, and violence as a safety hazard in the group or organization.

Establish a plan to address the hazard that includes processes for reporting.

Provide training to members of the organization at the awareness, supervisor and management level.

Incorporate in your safety management system (SMS).

Let’s make 2019 a year of safer workplace environments by working together to generate awareness. 

Taking action today can prevent violent accidents of tomorrow!

Holly is an ER nurse by trade, but loves content marketing.  She was born outside the box and believes everything is better with “sprinkles and sparkles”.  She is passionate about impacting lives and uses marketing as her platform for sharing practical solutions to address real life occupational health challenges.

Find out more about our Injury Case Management services or our Occupational Health Programs.


Posted in Injury Case Management, Occupational Health Management, Occupational Health Programs, Workplace Safety