Almost half of 25,000 working people say they have experienced trauma or distressing situations at work, a survey has found.
And just under a third (31 per cent) said they had experienced violence after being abused, threatened or assaulted by clients, customers or co-workers.
The peak national union body, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, will on Monday release the findings of its survey of more than 25,000 workers.
The survey found 47 per cent said they had either been exposed to traumatic or distressing situations at work in the past 12 months.
More than half of people who responded to the survey said they were aware of hazards in their workplace which had the potential of causing serious illness or injury.
Three in five workers said they had experienced poor mental health including stress, depression and anxiety in the last 12 months because their employer had failed to manage or address unsafe working conditions.
Dale Mills, a 63-year-old bank teller from the NSW Central Coast, said she left her job two years short of her retirement age because of a "toxic" work culture.
"It started out as a good place to work, but over the years the company culture became totally toxic," she said.
"Every morning there were meetings setting out unrealistic targets and every afternoon there were meetings asking us why we hadn't met them."
Ms Mills said there were some days when people struggled to find time to have a toilet break. She said some of her colleagues ate their lunch in their cars to "get a few minutes' peace".
When she started to develop heart problems, Ms Mills said she did not feel she could return to work without endangering her health.
"I left shortly before 25 years there, which would have enabled me to access more long service leave. If the environment was better I would have had no problems returning," she said.
ACTU assistant secretary Liam O'Brien said the incidence of work-related injuries and poor mental health were unacceptably high and "entirely avoidable".
"Work shouldn't hurt anyone - mentally, or physically," he said.
"The Work Shouldn't Hurt survey reveals that too many working people are experiencing violence, traumatic events and poor working conditions at work and most of it is preventable."
- SMH/The Age