Reducing the risk


Reducing the risk

Workplace violence is especially prevalent in healthcare. Lori Severson, vice president and healthcare loss control consultant at Lockton, offers some strategies for reducing risk and managing the cost of liability.

Workplace violence (WPV) is a national concern and no industry is free of the possibility of a serious occurrence. We often hear of WPV events in the news and read about them via social media. We empathize with those employers involved in shootings in movie theatres, schools, malls, and hospitals. As employers, and businesses, everyone is asking ‘what can I do?’.

"Are there additional measures you can add that allow access but increase security, such as guards, controlled access points, cameras, barriers or population control?"

Each year in the US, an average of 700 workers are killed while at work. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) estimated the number of non-fatal violent crimes occurring against persons 16 or older while they were at work in 2009 at 572,000.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 26.2 percent of Americans aged 18 and over suffer from some form of diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. While public opinion is often that people with mental health issues are the perpetrators of much of the violence we experience, more recent studies suggest that substance abuse, whether within the mentally ill population or outside, is still the strongest contributor to violence.

The US federal government, through the Centers for Disease Control, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, has categorized violence into four levels to define threat types and prevention strategies.

  1. Criminal intent;
  2. Customer/client;
  3. Worker-on-worker; and 
  4. Personal relationship. 

All these involve workplace behaviors that rise to the level of a crime recognized under state and/or federal law.

Currently, WPV is an unregulated safety hazard but not one without OSHA’s oversight. Under the Federal OSHA General Duty Clause, employers can be cited for the lack of a WPV program if violent incidents are occurring. So how do you manage your WPV exposures?

When implementing a security strategy, one of the important aspects to consider is sustainability. While any organization can create a temporary lockdown mode, it would be impossible to conduct business or maintain this level of security indefinitely. Security has cost, both direct and indirect. The art is to balance the level of security with the costs, both fiscal and public.

Layers of security

To start your assessment, you should work with a multidisciplinary team in and outside your organization to identify and counter possible threats. One method is to look at security as layers from the outside in.

Outer layer
Look at the outer layer as your first line of defense. This can consist of neighbors, lighting, cameras, and fencing. In relation to the other businesses in the area, how do you appear? Does your business appear to be well-organized and secure? Are your preventive measures sufficient when compared to those of other businesses in your neighborhood?

Are your cameras in a noticeable location? Unless your cameras are actively monitored, they won’t assist in prevention, but they may discourage as a warning of possible prosecution.

Middle layer

Assess the response times of local law enforcement. Review what type of public access programs you need for business success but are able to control when possible. Are there additional measures you can add that allow access but increase security, such as guards, controlled access points, cameras, barriers or population control?

Internal layer

Review current policies and procedures for effectiveness, such as:

  • Access controls—especially with employees who have been terminated. Are access codes and cards immediately turned off? Are keys and other means of access turned in? How do you recognize visitors, clients, and employees that are no longer allowed access?
  • Workplace climate—what types of harassment are present and, perhaps, facilitated? Are threats of violence tolerated? How well is your employee assistance program (EAP) utilized? Can your security perform arrests? Are employees willing to ask for help?
  • Response—conduct table-top exercises to review possible responses to different ‘what if’ scenarios. Provide training to employees specific to your environment on how to deal with these incidents. 
  • Post incident—develop a list of resources that you can call on to assist employees with recovery and re-establish business operations.

Risk financing
Because WPV incidents can’t be predicted or prevented with certainty, risk transfer must be considered. A combination of the lines of coverage listed below is reviewed and customized with clients when designing the risk financing piece of the WPV program.
From a liability standpoint, there is a combination of coverages to consider when evaluating coverage for a WPV incident.

Liquor liability insurance

This protects your business against loss or damages claimed as a result of a patron of your business becoming intoxicated and injuring themselves or others. It is typically excluded under a standard general liability policy.

Special event liability insurance

Also referred to as CGL, commercial general liability, or spectator liability, this is an insurance policy designed to provide broad protection for situations in which an event holder or concessionaire must defend itself against lawsuits or pay damages for bodily injury or property damage to third parties.

Workplace violence expense coverage

This provides coverage for expenses arising from post-incident crisis management, such as crisis management and employees’ counseling. Additionally, the loss of business income could be covered following a WPV incident if there is a financial loss.

Fidelity/crime insurance

This protects organizations from loss of money, securities, or inventory resulting from crime. Common fidelity/crime insurance claims allege employee dishonesty, embezzlement, forgery, robbery, safe burglary, computer fraud, wire transfer fraud, counterfeiting, and other criminal acts.

Kidnap, ransom, and extortion insurance

This provides coverage for a kidnapping and/or other events through a combination of financial indemnification and expert crisis management. A basic policy can cover items such as ransom payment, loss of income, interest on bank loans, and medical/psychiatric care.

Addressing the reality

With population expansion, the introduction of new, even more addictive drugs, and uncertain economics, it appears that the proportion of people willing to resort to deadly violence has increased. Employers must address the reality that random acts of violence may occur but as a team they can reduce the potential through review and insurance coverage planning.

Take the time to complete an internal review of your organization’s outside-in protection strategies using the resources listed in this paper. Time spent in WPV risk reduction may have multiple benefits. 

This commentary is based on a Lockton white paper co-authored by Severson as well as Lockton risk consultants Larry Poague and Mary Davis.

Lockton, Lori Severson, US, Crisis management