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Berndt Jonsson, project manager, Swedish Work Environment Authority. Photo: Marcus Eriksson/Swedish Radio
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The Swedish Work Environment Authority. Photo: Markus Eriksson/Swedish Radio

Authorities fail to protect employees from threats

Most Swedish authorities fail to deal with threats and violence against members of staff, according to the Swedish Work Environment Authority, which carried out around 1,500 inspections around Sweden and found that nearly seven in 10 employers must tighten procedure.

"What sets authorities' work apart is that their case workers often make decisions that can affect an individual's future and that can cause frustrations that can in turn lead to dangerous situations," Berndt Jonsson, project manager at the Work Environment Authority, told Swedish Radio News.

Some of the examples of violence and threats include an incident where an employment agency officer was hit in the face, case workers at the Swedish Social Insurance Agency dealt with clients who threatened to harm or kill themselves, and social workers received anonymous, threatening phone calls.

The problem is supposedly so widespread that the Work Environment Authority carried out around 1,500 inspections between the summer of 2011 and February 2013. A majority of employers, 67 percent, were asked to take improving measures. That is around 2,600 employees in total, said Jonsson, who added that the recommended measures could involve putting certain routines in place, like an effective alarm system.

Fredrik Andersson, a union representative within the Swedish Employment agency, said that employers must have the courage openly to discuss the issue of threats and violence against staff members and that they should take greater responsibility for taking measures against such incidents.

"As it is, it is often up to individual employees to report incidents to the police and we believe that should be the authority's responsibility," Andersson told Swedish Radio News.

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