I recently did a series called Danger Pay for the Free Press, focussing on how violence at work impacts different professions.
Figuring how to go at the story took time – reporters know from covering police press conferences and reading court dockets, as well as vetting public tips, about some of the most dangerous occupations when it comes to crime. For example, taxi drivers have always been front and centre of the issue, and led to reams of public debate on how to protect them from violent customers.
So what was the best part of the story, once I got amazing stats from Workers Compensation Board breaking down people who’ve missed work since 2006 based on their profession?
Well, what I didn’t expect... at all.
I was shocked by the "invisible" violence at work we never hear of – especially in fields like health care (people like nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates were the number one group of people who missed time at work due to violence, with licensed practical nurses and registered nurses not far behind) and educational assistants.
(By the way, due to the volume of mail I got from readers as far as Norway on the series, I promised I would post the stats online so others could access them here – and share the really great research that Workers Comp pulled together for the Freep).
The statistics and series illustrated that violence at work often may not lead to criminal charges, and thus become buried from traditional crime stories that might normally arise.
I also think that may have a spin-off effect on the public appreciation of people who do dangerous work – if people aren’t willing/able to chat about things that hurt them out of fear of losing their job, how can the public properly appreciate the risks? When I chatted with people about the subject, the floodgates opened with reams of stories, but finding people willing to be named or photographed was considerably trickier.
The good news about the series is that it piqued my interest in the subject (my efforts to find the funeral director who was assaulted on the job, for example, sadly came to naught... and I couldn’t find a family/marriage counsellour who could share the risks of their profession. Know any?).
I’ve since received a lot more tips and insight from sources on the prevalence of violence at work.
Thank you to all those who shared their insight with me, on the record or off the record.
Given the stats included here, you can see the issue touches jobs I never even imagined possible.