Managing the Risk of Workplace Violence
At the 2017 Business Insurance/CLM Workers’ Compensation Conference, a panel discussed managing the risks of workplace violence. The panel was:
- Mark Baker – VP Risk Management, Hyatt Corporation
- Lance Ewing – EVP Global Risk Management and Client Services, Cotton Holdings, Inc.
- Stephen Kmiec – VP, Sedgwick
- Dan Kugler – VP Enterprise Risk Management, Rev Group Inc.
Every year workplace violence costs employers over $16 million and over 876,000 workdays. Workplace violence is the second leading cause of workplace deaths, behind transportation incidents. This is a significant issue for employers.
Workplace violence can take many forms. Including:
- Active shooter
- Aggravated Assault
- Product tampering
- Sexual harassment
Three main sources of violence in the workplace:
- Delusional – Someone that has mental health issues that eventually results in them acting out in a violent manner.
- Disgruntled employees – Unhappy employee who seeks “revenge” for disciplinary action.
- Domestic issues – The leading cause of violence in the workplace is a domestic dispute that comes into the workplace.
Warning signs of the potential for violence:
- Patterns of conduct – Is the person “hot headed”.
- History of intimidation or inability to accept criticism at work.
- Obsessions – The job, guns, another employee, boss, promotion.
- Loner with limited-to-no support network.
- According to Secret Service, 81% of active shooters told at least one person of their intentions. IF YOU HEAR SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING!
Social media can provide you with warning signs about the potential for an employee to have violent behavior. However, this can be a very slippery slope as employers cannot legally require employees to give them access to their social media accounts. In addition, courts have usually not allowed employers to take disciplinary action against an employee because of a social media posting.
When considering the potential for workplace violence do not just consider the potential for this to come from your own employees. Often times the source of the violence comes from outside the company including vendors, customers, and personal relationships.
Employers should have a workplace violence policy which includes:
- A statement summarizing the policy.
- Clear path for communicating threats.
- Standard practices to address threats or violent acts.
- Designation and training of an incident response team.
- Clearly stated ZERO tolerance of violent behavior in the workplace.
- Reference to sources outside the company that employers may reach out to deal with a workplace violence issue.
One challenge many employers have is securing their facility. Places that are open to the public have significantly greater risks for violence from outsiders. This is a big challenge in the healthcare industry which cannot hide behind locked doors yet they have seen a significant increase in violence from outsiders.
The worst possible case of workplace violence is active shooters. For years the “standard” way to respond to an active shooter was shelter in place. Hide from the shooter. However, more are being trained to run, hide, fight. In other words first try to escape the situation. If that does not work hide. If you are found fight back. Moving away from the shooter is important as accuracy of shots decreases significantly with distance. Only 11% of assailants and 25% of police bullets hit their intended target. Keep moving. Pleading for mercy rarely works. Fight back with any means possible.
When it comes to workers’ compensation, people actually shot by an active shooter are just the beginning of the claims arising from that situation. Typically, you have more claims from people who were not shot due to post-traumatic stress.
Planning for workplace violence response:
- Have a relationship with local law enforcement. Find out how often they patrol your area. Invite them to tour your facility. Let them get to know you.
- Work with your insurance brokers and carriers who have experience with these situations and can assist in developing a violence response plan.
- You need a team from a variety of areas to develop the plan. This includes human resources, safety, security, risk management, legal, senior management, operations, marketing/communications, and information systems.
- Be prepared for a police response and have easy access to things they may need such as floor plans, utility shut offs, internal communications such as PA system or telephones.
- Having a plan is good but you need to practice it including crisis communication. If something bad actually happens people panic and sometimes forget the plan.
- Train your employees including “see something say something”.
- Stay on top of new forms of communication and change your policy at least annually.
- Work with your lawyers for feedback on your policy.