This week's sentencing of a man who viciously attacked a colleague is raising questions as to whether enough is being done to stem violence in the workplace.

The opinion comes after William Parker, 38, was sentenced for the 2011 attack on his co-worker, Dilbert Forbes, 55. 

Parker was given a sentence of four years, following guilty pleas on charges that included aggravated assault, assault and mischief.

He had repeatedly punched and kicked Forbes in the head with a steel-toed boot.

Dilbert Forbes

Dilbert Forbes sustained serious injuries following an October 2011 attack by his co-worker William Parker.

Forbes was seriously injured in the attack, and will remain on disability for the rest of his life due to an extensive brain injury. He suffered a stroke, and now has impaired speech and impaired cognition.

He is also partially paralyzed.

Mary Shortall, the interim president at the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, sees the case as a wake-up call.

"It was awful that it gets to that stage in the workplace," said Shortall.

"Violence is so broad a definition, and it manifests itself in so many ways in the workplace, and yet it's under-reported. We don't talk about it very often until something really big happens like happened the other day, and then it's almost too late. We really need to do something about it."

It is not clear what kind of policies could prevent extreme cases like this one. 

Shortall said unions, employers and governments have tried to deal with violence in the workplace for years, but it's not enough.

'Violence is so broad a definition, and it manifests itself in so many ways in the workplace, and yet it's under-reported.' - Mary Shortall

"There needs to be enforcement, there needs to be education, communication," she said. 

"There could be legislation like there is in Ontario that actually requires employers to put forward policies and to put forth education. So there is a lot of work that we could be doing."

Shortall added a good place to start would be to broaden existing occupational health and safety legislation to protect people like Dilbert Forbes.