Workplace violence incidents are not black swan events

Sadly, violence can’t always be avoided.

You can, however, reduce the likelihood of such acts in the workplace with education, planning and processes/procedures to help proactively identify these type of risks before they escalate to violence. And then, if and when an unfortunate act occurs, do you have the resources for all of those impacted?

Smart Business spoke with Chas Lowe, commercial insurance specialist at Zito Insurance Agency, Inc., about workplace violence.

What types of workplace violence exist? 

People view these incidents as black swan events, when, in reality, they occurred more than 300 times last year, according to AlertFind, which is dedicated to helping employers reduce workplace violence.

Workplace violence is often broken into four categories. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are:

1. Criminal intent, such as robbery or shoplifting.

2. Customer/client. Health care settings most commonly experience this type of violence.

3. Co-workers. This can include verbal as well as physical violence.

4. Personal relationship. An example would be the significant other of an employee showing up at the place of employment.

It’s important to note that violence can occur in any industry. Unfortunately, these acts often result in collateral damage.

Which businesses are most vulnerable?

The most vulnerable are companies that deal with the public — i.e. hospitals, schools, government entities, social services — as well as places that exchange money and/or businesses that are open late. 

The current status of the business can also impact the risk for violence. For example, rumors about layoffs, outsourcing or a business closing have been shown to increase the likelihood of a violent event occurring.

How can employers protect their employees?

First, employers have a duty to implement risk management practices to deter violence and help people deal with issues before they become a crisis. Processes and procedures should prevent conflict from turning into harassment or violence. Effective lines of communication on all levels can ensure employees are comfortable approaching management or reporting violent acts. Counseling services or company training helps people know what behavior will and will not be tolerated, while also encouraging employees to accept individual differences.

Consider offering counseling services or mental health resources through a health benefits package. A well-thought-out disaster plan should also address what to do in the event of workplace violence. 

How can insurance help? What misconceptions do employers have? 

Insurance coverage for these types of unfortunate events is usually a standalone endorsement, which can be added to your policy for an additional cost.

One misconception is that workplace violence coverage is activated by legal liability or a lawsuit; however, it is actually triggered by the actual violent act. Another misconception is that workers’ compensation will cover these violent incidents. In fact, some workers’ compensation specifically excludes coverage for acts of violence or the threat of lethal force. 

What does workplace violence insurance typically cover?

Workplace violence insurance covers expenses an employer may incur, including:

  •   Medical expenses for all of those affected
  •   Hiring independent security consultants 
  •   Victim employees’ salaries and replacement employees’ salaries
  •   Loss of business income in the event of a workplace shutdown 
  •   Post-incident crisis management, including consultants and mental health specialists
  •   Rewards for information leading to an arrest

While some businesses are more vulnerable, all employers face the threat of workplace violence. Every employer needs to foster a safety culture and implement risk management designed specifically for workplace violence. Your insurance agent can help you understand your exposure and the value of this important coverage.

Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Zito Insurance Agency Inc.