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Workplace safety: workplace violence - Pie Insurance

Kaela Prall-MooreArticle By Kaela Prall-Moore
Workplace safety: workplace violence - Pie Insurance

Protecting your employees from workplace violence

With the frequency of news stories highlighting workplace violence, it’s easy to imagine the worst case scenarios like shootings, hostage situations, and more. Unfortunately, while drastic, these instances are not unheard of and can happen anywhere and at any time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the state of workplace violence in the United States, the potentially devastating effects on your business, how you can mitigate the risk factors, and how to protect your business if the worst should happen.

Workplace violence statistics

There’s been a sad history of workplace violence in this country. Consider the following startling statistics:

  • Two million people become victims of workplace violence every year.
  • One out of seven people doesn’t feel safe in the workplace.
  • 30 percent of employees are unaware of their company’s safety plan.
  • 30,000 women report workplace sexual assaults annually.

Workplace shootings or other fatal attacks are the most drastic examples of workplace violence. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), however, “Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.”

All such incidents can have a destructive impact on the lives of your employees and on the success of your business.

The impact of workplace violence on business

The biggest problem with workplace violence is the toll it takes on people’s physical and mental wellbeing. We know your employees’ safety and happiness is always your top priority, so let’s take a look at the impact that workplace violence can have on your business.

Monetary costs

Violence in the workplace is expensive in terms of medical costs, lawsuits, and lost productivity. The amount of money U.S. businesses lose every year due to workplace violence totals $130 billion.

Employee morale

Any type of violence, bullying, or assault – be it verbal or physical – is damaging to employees’ spirits. Feeling insecure or unsafe at work can be demoralizing. After all, you have to work nearly every day, so any negative feelings you encounter while working will have a cumulative effect.

Turnover

Morale and turnover go hand in hand. Our knee-jerk response when we feel we’re in danger is “fight or flight.” Therefore, if your employees feel like they’re not safe (mentally, emotionally, or physically) in their own work environment, they may choose the “flight” option. They’ll leave you to work for a business where they feel more confident.

Productivity

People work best when their minds are clear of distractions. Violence, or even the threat or fear of violence, is counterproductive to efficiency. When you must shut down production to deal with the many issues surrounding violence of any kind, you lose that output as well.

Workplace violence risk factors

Research suggests that the following factors contribute to a worker’s risk for workplace assault:

  • Public contact
  • Exchange of money
  • Delivery of passengers, goods, or services
  • Having a mobile workplace (taxi, food truck, etc.)
  • Working with unstable or volatile persons
  • Working alone or in small numbers
  • Working late-night or early-morning hours
  • Working in high crime areas
  • Working with valuable property or possessions
  • Working in community-based settings

This list should give you a good idea about your own company’s risk level, but understand these factors are not exhaustive. If none apply to you, it doesn’t mean you run no risk of workplace violence cropping up in one form or another. Put measures in place to protect your people and your business regardless of your operational sector.

How to protect your employees from workplace violence

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Protecting your assets, human and otherwise, is usually a matter of taking measures in two different categories.

Environmental

Here, we’re talking about actual security measures. Some businesses can’t operate behind locked doors, but some can. Assaults often come from outside the organization. Find ways to make it difficult for outsiders to physically get in without being vetted.

Security cameras, security guards, adequate lighting, and physical barriers such as partitions may be good options for you. Start thinking about the designs you can incorporate in your work environment that will mitigate risk.

Administrative and behavioral

While it’s important to have and communicate a zero-tolerance violence policy, a line or two in your company handbook won’t cut it. Staffing plans and work practices need to be in place to show your employees that their safety is important to you.

You want to deter opportunists from choosing your location to strike. Think along the lines of money drop-off and pick-up systems, staffing numbers (don’t have people working in remote locations alone), and strict policies and procedures for assessing and reporting threats.

Security cameras, security guards, adequate lighting, and physical barriers such as partitions may be good options for you. Start thinking about the designs you can incorporate in your work environment that will mitigate risk.

If the worst happens

Despite your best efforts, violence could still occur in your workplace. In this case, you need to tend to the people who may have been harmed first.

Nobody can predict if or when an assault will occur or the damage it may cause. For this reason, it’s important to insure your business against this eventuality with a robust insurance policy.

Workplace violence insurance is an important supplemental policy because traditional property and casualty insurance generally doesn’t cover acts of violence. A comprehensive policy will cover injuries, lawsuits, and property restoration. It should protect all employees, regardless of whether they were onsite when the incident occurred, as long as they were working at the time. You can tailor your coverage terms to meet your company’s needs, budget, and risk factors.

Are you protecting your business with insurance?

It’s impossible to mitigate every risk but implementing safety measures will help reduce the chance of workplace violence. If one of your employees gets injured on the job, workers’ compensation insurance may cover their medical costs and provide benefits until they can return to work.

Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As best practices change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.

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